The Chinese Communist Party will start its most important meeting on Sunday. The meeting is of great importance as it concerns the party that exercises exclusive control over the world’s most populous country and the world’s second largest economy.
At the party’s national congress, held every five years, officials will be appointed at the highest levels of the party and the country.
The congress will also provide a look at how China will face a host of domestic and international challenges in the next five years, from the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, a slowing economy and strained relations with the United States. , which is increasingly concerned about China’s growing economic and geopolitical influence.
The decisions taken at the week-long meeting will have a major impact not only on China’s 1.4 billion people, but also on the rest of the world.
Why this year’s party congress is particularly important
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party will almost certainly confirm the re-election of leader Xi Jinping for a third term as general secretary of the Communist Party, remaining president of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
That would make him the first Chinese leader since Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 to serve more than two terms, and the most powerful leader since Mao and his successor Deng Xiaoping. This is a clear sign that Xi has consolidated power since his appointment in 2012 and that the country is returning to the practice of a strong leader in power, rather than passing the baton to top party leaders.
“I personally believe (Xi) will continue to be the main leader with various combinations of positions until 2035,” said Victor Gao, vice president of the Chinese institute Center for China and Globalization and an English translator for leader Deng when the latter was in power.
“He will only be 83 years old then, and when Deng Xiaoping was 83 years old, in 1987, he was at the peak of his career. Deng Xiaoping was very sharp … he made the best decisions for the time.”
If getting a third term is not so extraordinary, the congress could also give Xi the title of “leader of the people”, a title previously given only to Mao.
That would be “very significant,” according to Chen Gang, assistant director and senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute.
“He would achieve Mao’s political status, which would give him the ability to more easily push through policies,” Mr. Gang said.
What will happen next at the party congress?
The Chinese Communist Party has over 96 million members.
At the party congress, some 2,300 delegates representing the membership will meet in Beijing to elect more than 200 members of the party’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee. They will also elect the 25 members of its Politburo and, most importantly, seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest level of the party’s leadership.
The selections, however, are believed to be decided in advance.
At the end of the one-week congress, the nominations will be announced and the members of the Standing Committee will appear on stage, in order, to be photographed.
Some analysts predict that the Central Committee, Politburo and Standing Committee will undergo major reorganizations. Mr. Gao expects new faces to fill up to five of the seven positions on the Standing Committee, up to two-thirds of the 25 Politburo posts and up to half of the roughly 200 seats on the Central Committee.
What does the staff reshuffle mean for President Xi?
The new lineup is expected to include many of President Xi’s political allies.
“Xi will emerge from the congress stronger than ever by placing more loyalists in the party’s top organs, its Politburo and Standing Committee,” Mr. Gang said.
“More than half [nga shtatë anëtarët e Komitetit të Përhershëm] will be closely related to him”.
Premier Li Keqiang has announced that he will step down in March.
Analysts have speculated who might replace him, including prominent allies of President Xi. This group includes Li Qiang, party secretary of Shanghai; Vice Premier Liu He, an economist and lead negotiator in the US-China trade war talks; Chen Min’er, Party Chief of Chongqing Municipality; and Cai Qi, Beijing party secretary.
Also as possible candidates are Wang Yang, head of China’s top advisory body and a reputed economic reformer, and Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, who is considered a close ally of Xi’s predecessor, former president Hu Jintao.
If Hu Chunhua or Wang Yang become prime minister, analysts say, it would show that President Xi has had to compromise, perhaps out of frustration over his strict measures against the COVID-19 virus, which have hurt growth. economic and have sparked rare public protests in Shanghai and elsewhere.
But Andy Xie, former chief economist of financial institution Morgan Stanley in Asia and now an independent consultant, says it is irrelevant who becomes prime minister because President Xi “has restored party control everywhere. … The head of the party has the last word”.
Mr. Xie added that the State Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister, “has become more or less an advisory agency.”
Will the party congress give clues about how China will face the challenges?
This party congress is the first since China has been hit with a host of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the US-China trade war, the highest tensions in decades in the Taiwan Strait and the war in Ukraine.
At the same time, China is grappling with slower economic growth, exacerbated by its strict measures against the spread of the COVID-19 virus and a property problem that has seriously dented its economy. Other drags on economic growth include an aging population and a low birth rate.
Analysts say that while the party will try to fix these problems, including providing support measures for some property developers, it will continue to focus on alleviating poverty and building what President Xi has called shared prosperity.
“I don’t think China wants to have high growth anymore. The desire is to become the strongest country, to make strides in technology development and break the US embargo” on semiconductors and other technology exports,” Mr. Xie said.
Congress is also likely to reaffirm China’s stated commitment to free trade, a market economy and globalization.
While the congress usually focuses on domestic issues, the policy directions it adopts could also signal how China will deal with growing mutual mistrust between Beijing and the United States, particularly over Taiwan.
Will there be any major policy changes?
According to analysts, no major political changes are expected. But many expect a move away from China’s strict policy of achieving zero COVID infections and toward tolerating the virus as long as cases are not high. Mr. Gao foresees a situation in which when there is an increase in cases of “Covid-19” only buildings are isolated and not entire districts or cities as is done now.
According to Mr. Gao, this can be implemented as early as next spring./VOA
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