China’s President Xi Jinping gives a speech following a swearing-in ceremony to inaugurate the city’s new leader and government in Hong Kong on July 1, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (AFP/Selim CHTAYTI )
China’s Communist Party said Sunday that it had elected all the delegates attending a key political meeting starting October 16, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term. The twice-in-a-decade conclave will also see a shuffle of personnel on the party’s powerful decision-making body, the 25-member Politburo. “Each electoral unit across the country convened a party congress or party representative meeting and elected 2,296 delegates to the 20th Party Congress,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
The delegates must adhere to Xi’s political ideology in addition to the party constitution, CCTV said. The representatives include women, ethnic minority party members and those specialising in various fields, such as economics, science and sports, CCTV said. The congress in the capital Beijing comes as Xi faces significant political headwinds, including an ailing economy, deteriorating relations with the United States and a strict zero-Covid policy that has accelerated China’s inward turn from the world.
The congress is the most important date on China’s political calendar. It offers signposts on the direction the world’s second-largest economy will take in the near term and the extent of the sway that Xi has over the party with millions of members. The nearly 2,300 delegates representing all provinces and regions will engage in a highly choreographed exercise to pick members of the party’s Central Committee of around 200 members.
The Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee — China’s highest leadership body and apex of power, currently comprising seven people. Voting is mostly a formality — the pecking order of the Politburo and its Standing Committee is likely to have been decided well in advance. The overall duration of the congress is not yet clear.
Xi’s decade-long tenure has seen crackdowns on corruption within the party — which analysts say served to take down his political rivals — as well as the crushing of a democracy movement in Hong Kong and strict lockdowns on cities in the name of curbing the coronavirus. He has faced harsh human rights criticism from the international community over repressive policies in the northwestern Xinjiang region, where an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorites have been detained in a sweeping crackdown ostensibly targeting “terrorism”. He also ushered in an assertive “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy that has alienated Western democracies and some regional neighbours, and has pushed for closer ties with Russia while stoking nationalism at home. He abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018 — originally set up by former leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to prevent another Mao-like dictatorship — leaving open the possibility of him becoming leader for life.
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