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Will Xi Jinping indicate a successor for 2022? No one's sure

The makeup of the standing committee, for one, could give an indication whether the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping have chosen a successor to take over the reins of the party in 2022.

world Updated: Oct 24, 2017 23:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
Xi Jinping,China,Communist Party of China
A man walks past a roadside poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping after the closing of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing on October 24, 2017.(AFP Photo)

On Wednesday, the Communist Party of China will reveal the composition of its two top decision-making bodies – the politburo and the smaller but most powerful standing committee of the politburo.

The 19th national congress of the Communist Party, which officially concluded on Tuesday, is the key party event where leadership changes for the next five years are announced. Like similar five-yearly congresses before, it was an opportunity for younger leaders to come up the pyramidal party structure, and it also gives an indication of who could be a future party general secretary.

The makeup of the standing committee, for one, could give an indication whether the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping have chosen a successor to take over the reins of the party in 2022.

Both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang were identified soon after the 2007 national congress as potential top leaders.

Will it be the same on Wednesday?

Li Cheng, director of the John L Thornton China Centre at the Washington-based Brookings Institution and a leading expert on elite Chinese politics, thinks there could be a delay in announcing Xi’s successor.

“It is reasonable to delay it a bit. The previous model may not be always right because sometimes you need to have the leaders more tested. No country has a successor identified five years before. It’s a Chinese experiment and subject to China’s will. Xi Jinping could reasonably argue that,” Li told Hindustan Times over email.

“He (Xi) will be the de facto power in China for years to come but its unclear whether he won’t anoint a potential successor at the congress. Chen Mi’ner, the Chongqing Communist Party secretary and a Xi crony, may represent a younger official who gains entry into the standing committee, making him a potential successor,” said Victor Shih, associate professor at the school of global policy and strategy at the University of California in San Diego.

On the possible reduction of members of the standing committee from seven to five, Shih said it was possible if Xi wanted to defer succession.

“It might happen mainly because this will allow Xi to effortlessly gain a majority in the standing committee. With the retirement of everyone else in the standing committee, besides Xi and Premier Li, Xi only needs to promote two people to the committee to gain majority. He can then deter the issue of a successor potentially,” Shih added.

But Li said not anointing a successor could lead to anxieties.

“Succession is always important for any country. I think it not only for him (Xi) but for other leaders as well. You need to have a mechanism. Otherwise, people will remain lost. I think there will be some indication or maybe identify more than one. You do not need to create more anxiety,” Li said.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 23:51 IST