CPC Congress in China: Xi Jinping tightens grip on power after easing out PM Li Keqiang

Published on Oct 22, 2022 08:47 PM IST

Li will continue as PM until March, 2023 before making way for the new premier at the end of China’s annual National People’s Congress session

President Xi Jinping (right) looks over as Premier Li Keqiang raises his hand to vote at the closing ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China’s ruling Communist Party at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Saturday. (AP)
President Xi Jinping (right) looks over as Premier Li Keqiang raises his hand to vote at the closing ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China’s ruling Communist Party at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Saturday. (AP)

BEIJING: Xi Jinping is all set to begin a custom-breaking third term as China’s leader on Sunday as he further strengthened his grip over the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Saturday through new amendments to the party charter and easing out top leaders including Premier Li Keqiang to make space for allies in the top leadership hierarchy.

Xi is expected to be named as CPC general secretary on Sunday and in March, 2023, begin his third term as president.

The week-long 20th CPC national congress concluded on Saturday with 2,296 delegates electing a new 205-member Central Committee (CC).

The new CC did not include four current members of the CPC’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (SC) including Li, who was number two after Xi, Wang Yang, once tipped to replace the Premier, Han Zheng, former Shanghai party chief, and Li Zhanshu who was the head of China’s rubber stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).

The three who remained on the SC were Xi, 69, Wang Huning, known for his work on ideology, and Zhao Leji who heads the CPC discipline apparatus.

Li will continue as Premier until March, 2023 before making way for the new Premier at the end of China’s annual NPC session.

Li was in charge of China’s economy, the second largest in the world, but analysts had pointed out that his power had eroded over the years as Xi consolidated his own power and influence over all facets of China’s governance.

The new CC will select China’s top leadership including the SC which will be unveiled at the Great Hall of the People when Xi walks out with them to a room with domestic and foreign journalists on Sunday.

“Whoever is appointed (on Sunday), they will be fully in agreement with the politics associated with Xi. China is now a country without factions. and at the very top, the level of consensus and agreement is quite striking,” Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute and Professor of Chinese Studies, King’s College, London, said.

In his speech delivered at the closing of the Congress on Saturday, Xi said: “We must improve our capacity for political judgement, thinking, and implementation. We must take the lead in upholding the Central Committee’s authority and its centralised , unified leadership…”

“It is hard for Xi to go further in terms of centralisation and power concentration. Security will continue to trump everything, including economic growth: So this set of priorities clearly compels Xi to keep a high degree of control and centralisation,” Jean-Pierre Cabestan, emeritus professor, Department of Government and International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Hong Kong Baptist University, said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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