Xi set to tighten grip on power

  • Communist conclave
- Agence France-Presse, BEIJING

Oct 16, 2017-

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to tighten his grip on power at a Communist Party conclave this week, cementing his stature as the country’s most dominant ruler in decades.

The five-yearly congress, which opens Wednesday, will give Xi an opportunity to enhance his control over the world’s second largest economy by stacking the halls of power with loyalists.

The 64-year-old supremo will undoubtedly be granted the customary second term as general secretary of the Communist Party, but analysts will watch for signs that he may try to hang on beyond 2022.

Xi’s clout has drawn parallels with Mao Zedong, modern China’s founder, and Deng Xiaoping, who spearheaded economic reforms as paramount leader from the late 1970s to early 1990s.

“We can basically describe there as being three eras: The era when Mao was in power, Deng Xiaoping’s era, and now the 19th Party congress is in some sense the complete opening of the Xi Jinping era,” Chinese political expert Chen Daoyin told AFP. On the global stage, Xi has used China’s economic might to bring more countries into the Asian giant’s orbit. While he has championed globalisation, the United States and Europe still complain of huge hurdles to enter the Chinese market.

He has even managed to build a rapport with Donald Trump, who has called Xi a “friend”, visiting the US leader at his Florida resort and inviting him to Beijing after the congress in November despite differences over trade and how to handle North Korea.

In addition to general secretary, Xi also has the traditional jobs of president and chairman of the central military commission.

One clear signal that the age of Xi has begun is if he is able to fill the new Politburo Standing Committee with his allies.

Five members of the seven-person council that rules over China are set to step down in line with an unofficial retirement age of 68, leaving only Xi and 62-year-old Premier Li Keqiang.

Xi may also use the occasion of the congress to designate an heir apparent.

One potential successor, former Chongqing city head Sun Zhengcai, was ousted from the party in September after being ensnared in the anti-corruption drive.

The city’s new chief, Chen Miner, is a Xi ally and could be seen as a contender if he ascends to the party’s higher echelons.

Another name to watch is Hu Chunhua, 54, the top official of the prosperous southern province of Guangdong.

Pekinologists are also waiting to see if Xi’s name is added to the constitution alongside his political “thought”—an honour bestowed only on Mao and Deng before him.

To Bill Bishop, Washington-based author of the Sinocism China Newsletter, “that would be a sign that he has really joined the pantheon”.

Published: 16-10-2017 07:56

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