China opens meeting expected to give Xi Jinping 5 more years in power
Beijing holds twice-a-decade party conference at which leader is set to receive a third term that breaks with recent precedent
BEIJING — China opened a twice-a-decade Communist Party conference on Sunday, at the end of which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term, breaking with recent precedent and establishing him as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong.
Xi was delivering a lengthy report at the opening in which he extolled the achievements of the past five years and said the party would strive to meet its modernization goals to achieve what it calls the “rejuvenation” of the nation.
In his opening address the leader hailed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and said the Congress was taking place at a “critical moment” for the country.
At the start of what is expected to be a lengthy speech, Xi also insisted China’s Covid policies — which are still placing heavy curbs on people’s lives — was for their safety.
With Xi expected to remain, little change is foreseen in China’s economic and foreign policies, as well as his intolerance of criticism and hardline approach to COVID-19 including quarantines and travel bans.
More than 2,000 of the party’s 96 million members are attending the opening in the hulking Great Hall of the People overlooking Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. The congress is the 20th in the history of the century-old party.
The delegates’ main task is to endorse Xi’s unprecedented campaign to rule for three terms. Xi and the party’s other leaders are likely to be unveiled the day after the Congress closes.
In the highly choreographed, mostly closed-door conclave, the delegates will also pick members of the party’s roughly 200-member Central Committee, which in turn selects the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee — the country’s highest leadership body.
An editorial in the state run People’s Daily on Sunday said the Congress will “plan out the goals, tasks and major policies for the development of the party and the country for the next five years or even longer”.
As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the outcome will only be announced after a week of closed-door sessions.
The spokesperson for the congress, Sun Yeli, offered few details Saturday about what changes would be enacted to the party’s charter at the meeting.
The changes will “incorporate major theoretical views and strategic thinking” developed since the last congress five years ago and “meet new requirements for advancing the party’s development and work in the face of new circumstances and new tasks,” said Sun, a deputy head of the party’s Propaganda Department.
Xi, who has been leader for 10 years, has already amassed great power, placing himself in charge of domestic affairs, foreign policy, the military, the economy and most other key matters through party working groups that he leads.
The congress comes as China’s economy is facing major headwinds from a sharp slowdown in the real estate sector and the toll on tourism, shops and manufacturing from COVID-19 quarantines and other restrictions.