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Lead up to the 20th Party Congress: Political Landscape; By Balasubramanian C

Image Courtesy: SCMP

Article: 41/2022

President Xi Jinping is expected to disrupt the way that power transitions in China this year exceeding the normal two-time limit to take a third time in power despite the fact he exceeded the country's normal retirement age of 68 in June 2022.

The political agenda of Chinese President Xi Jinping during his decade in power consisted of three core components:

(1) Establishing personal political dominance

(2) Revitalizing the Leninist party- state

(3) Expanding Chinese state power and influence globally.

Xi Jinping came to power stating he wanted to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation which was to make it a world power again on the global stage. Despite the slowdown China is set to surpass the US as the world's largest economy in the next 10-15 years. As of today, China has the world's largest Navy and Xi Jinping's pet project the colossal Belt and Road Initiative has built influence and infrastructure all around the world.

However, under Xi China has become more closed, the internet and technology has become far more regulated and he has overseen a campaign of oppression in Xinjiang which the US has called it as a genocide, a crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong, firm clutches over Tibet and pressure on Taiwan all these of which has fractured relations with the West especially the US. His zero COVID policy after being so successful at containing deaths in the early pandemic is now giving China's economy a bruising including a dent to his image.

Some 2,000 delegates from all across China are set to arrive in Beijing these include top military officials, provincial party leaders, farming representatives and people from China's minority groups will convene behind closed doors for five days and decide everything from policy priorities to future of who's leading the country. Although these are decided beforehand but only at the end of the Congress Xi Jinping will walk out for a press conference with his top cabinet behind him ‘in order of rank’ and only then will people understand who it is that Xi Jinping and the party have selected to be China’s most powerful men. Xi Jinping has overseen an anti-corruption campaign during his tenure in the past 10 years which has eliminated all of his rivals including the voice of dissent.

However, there are still a few rising stars and it will be interesting to see what position they land in. These include Hu Chunhua and Chen Min’er who are long time Xi’s associates.

In picture: Hu Chunhua

Picture courtesy: The Print

The conclusion of the Beidaihe conclave has brought out indications about who is getting promoted. Hu may likely be the pick for the premiership to replace Li Keqiang. Hu’s ascent will have implications for India as well. Hu has worked in Tibet for most of his life. Thereafter, Hu steadily rose to the party ranks in Tibet. Between 2003-5, Hu served as the Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

In picture: Chen Min’er

Picture courtesy: Newsweek

The next to be monitored closely is Chen Min’er. The 6th Communist Party of China (CPC) Chongqing Municipal Congress and investiture was held from 27 to 31 May 2022. Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Chen Min’er was nominated by the CPC Central Committee and elected as Chongqing’s delegate to the 20th Party Congress. Chongqing has gone through three major facelifts in the last five years namely, transforming its political environment from “polluted” to “clean”, pivoting from rapid to quality economic growth, and going from overall to complete moderate affluence.

Other to be closely monitored is where Li Qiang is going to be placed. He is the Shanghai Party Secretary and a close ally of Xi. He was tipped to enter the Politburo Standing Committee but after overseeing a disastrous COVID campaign in Shanghai there are indications that he might no longer get a promotion.

Xi Jinping with his political skills and control of the regime’s instruments of control has firmly established his political authority and dominance. The revitalization of the Leninist party-state has been most successful in establishing tight social control. Under Xi reintroduction of ideological indoctrination and organizational discipline into the party have produced questionable attachment to ideological commitment but to political loyalty. The reassertion of state control over the economy has begun, and it is likely to impose immense costs in the medium to long term. The assertive foreign policy followed by Xi has yielded counterproductive outcomes in the global balance of power which has provoked a vigorous pushback by the U.S. and its allies. Going by the trends, it is indicative that Xi Jinping will assert with a third term in power but his priorities will lie in bringing back the economy on track, diplomacy and foreign policy which has taken a dent and modernisation of PLA all of which will have immediate implications for India and for the region.

(Mr. Balasubramanian C is a Senior Research Officer at C3S. The views expressed are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

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