Keys to not get lost in the appointment that will mark the “new era” of China | International
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Chinese politics this week of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party has become a huge pyramid-shaped machine: from a base of 97 million people affiliated with the largest ruling Marxist party on the face of the earth, the seven chosen ones of the Standing Committee, the highest body of power in China, at the top of which, in all probability, will be Xi Jinping again, who aspires to an exceptional third term as secretary general of the party. The opaque operation of the conclave is cooked behind closed doors and with hardly any leaks. These are some keys to not getting lost in a political dance that has profound consequences in China and will leave its mark on the rest of the planet.
Who participates in the XX Congress?
In theory, the nearly 2,300 party delegates who have come to Beijing from all corners of China are in charge of deliberating for a week. But in reality nothing is decided these days: the key issues have been forged in advance in long discussions that go back months.
What are the milestones of the event?
The event, which is held every five years, began in Beijing last Sunday, with a speech by President Xi in which he took stock of his decade in power and projected the architecture of the Chinese future until 2049 (year of the centenary of the Republic). Popular). The event concludes next Saturday, when the composition of the new Central Committee, the body of nearly 200 regular members that exercises political leadership, will be unveiled.
In its first plenary session, after the closure, the Central Committee will in turn decide on the upper steps of the pyramid: the new Politburo —25 members— and the new Permanent Committee —the seven at the top—, in addition to the general secretariat of the match. The new Central Military Commission will also be announced, which exercises the leadership of the party in the country’s armed forces —the People’s Liberation Army—, and whose presidency also falls (and is expected to do so again) to Xi Jinping.
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Who forms the Standing Committee?
This Sunday, as a great final pyrotechnics, the almost theatrical staging of the country’s main command posts will take place. It is the moment that captures all eyes, where there are pools and all kinds of speculation, seasoned political scientists beat the copper and each gesture opens an abyss of interpretations: the presentation to the world of the new Permanent Committee of the Politburo. “How Xi orders” this body, Trivium China analysts observe in their latest bulletin, “will indicate his power and his political trajectory for the next five years.”
On the day of their presentation, the seven leaders (there could be more or less, there is no fixed rule) go on stage respecting a rigorous hierarchical order that allows us to know very roughly the composition of China’s key institutions: number one — Xi—will most likely be the head of state; number two—Li Keqiang at the moment—usually acts as prime minister; the 3—Li Zhanshu today—normally heads the National People’s Congress. But these positions are not officially appointed until March, when the Chinese legislature meets and the political transition is complete.
Will Xi name a successor?
The last seats on the Standing Committee are usually reserved for potential successors. And this is one of the great unknowns of the 20th Congress: whether or not there will be an heir, a position that some analysts dismiss as even “dangerous.” Xi has already avoided appointing a dauphin at the 2017 conclave, flouting the unwritten rules that have been in place since the Deng Xiaoping era and opening his way to a third term as general secretary; then, he sculpted his permanence as president in 2018, with the change of the Constitution to eliminate the limit of two terms in the head of state.
Are there rules for renewing organs?
This carefully timed dance is the political sauce that is raging in Beijing these days. According to forecasts, between two and four Standing Committee seats could be renewed. Two of the current members, at least in theory, should leave office by age – Li Zhanshu, 72, and Executive Vice Premier Han Zheng, 68 – but only if another of the unofficial rules of Deng’s time, that of retirement, outlined to avoid stagnation in power: whoever is 67 years old (or younger) stays; who is 68 (or more) leaves. But it should be noted that Xi himself, 69, would already be breaking the rule.
There is a third probable departure from the Standing Committee, that of the current number two, Li Keqiang. Considered a counterweight to Xi but one of the weakest prime ministers in decades, Li announced earlier this year that he would step down.
What do the political pools say?
From here a tidal wave of predictions about what could happen is unleashed. In Trivium China they believe that “one Li for another Li” could enter the Standing Committee: Li Qiang, party secretary in Shanghai, “and a key ally of Xi”, would agree, who could even participate in the race to serve as future first Minister.
The Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post He has assured these days that the change could be “greater” than expected, with a fourth departure from the Standing Committee. This newspaper places Wang Huning at the top of the next hierarchy, currently number five, one of the most reputable ideologues of the party and whose hand is behind the great slogans and lines of thought of Xi, such as the “Chinese dream” . He also places Ding Xuexiang, Xi’s personal secretary, among the possible candidates for the highest ranks.
Xulio Ríos, emeritus advisor to the Chinese Policy Observatory, has his own pool. “But knowing, knowing, nobody knows,” he clarifies. In his opinion, he could access the highest body of power, among others, Hu Chunhua, current vice prime minister, protégé of former president Hu Jintao and heir to “denguism”, a weighty politician who was once considered a strong candidate to the party leadership. His appointment would mark a certain pact between factions of the party. He also believes that Chen Min’er, current party secretary in Chonqing, whom he considers “close to Xi”, could enter, and whose presence could be interpreted as the appointment of an heir.
How to read political change?
Beyond the chair dance, Ríos believes that the new body should be read with the president’s recent speech in mind, which marks “the enthronement of Xi and the strategy of Xiism,” which casts the shadow of his “new era.” ” until the year 2049. Beijing, according to the words of the president, foresees the entry into a “convulsive” period for which the country has to prepare. The composition of the new Central Military Commission could help interpret the strategy around one of those possible geopolitical turbulences: Taiwan.
What other decisions are made?
During the Congress, it is also intended to reform the Constitution (or statutes) of the party to include, according to various experts, “Xi’s thought” at the level of “Mao Zedong’s thought”, and, therefore, well above the “Deng Xiaoping theory” —the only other president expressly mentioned in the text—. The reform would elevate the current president to the top of the pantheon of leaders, hand in hand with the Great Helmsman, reinforcing Xi’s turn toward personalism and concentration of power. Ríos considers it “probable” that this same reform will be carried out in the country’s Constitution in March.
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