- Shanghai Party chairman Li Qiang is expected to succeed as premier.
- Loyalists fill key positions, and Xi lacks an obvious successor.
- The Politburo now has 24 members rather than the usual 25, with no women.
China’s Xi Jinping achieved a record-breaking third term in office on Sunday and presented a new top governing body brimming with friends, cementing his status as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
Following Xi onto the platform at the Great Hall of the People to unveil the new Politburo Standing Committee, Shanghai Communist Party leader Li Qiang, 63, was the next in line to succeed Li Keqiang as premier when he steps down in March.
Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi are the remaining seven members of the Standing Committee, together with Zhao Leji and Wang Huning, who are returning from the previous committee.
Analysts say they are all deeply devoted to Xi, 69, the son of a Communist Party revolutionary who has guided China in a more authoritarian path since taking office in 2012.
According to Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, this leadership will be focused on completing Xi’s political ambitions, rather than following their own agendas for what they believe is best for the country. There is only one appropriate way to rule, and it is Xi’s way.
The Standing Committee and the larger 24-member Politburo are announced a day after the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress, which enacted modifications to the party charter to reinforce Xi’s basic standing and the driving role of his political philosophy within the party.
The Standing Committee lineup demonstrates that Xi’s grip on power has not been shaken by the turbulent events of the past year, which included a severe economic slowdown, discontent with his zero-COVID policy, and China’s growing estrangement from the West, exacerbated by his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In terms of policymaking, it does signal that there is going to be more deference to Xi Jinping’s own views about how to drive the country and the economy forward, says Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets in Singapore.
He anticipated that the zero-COVID policy is probably more established, and there will be increased focus on this theme of common prosperity and the like.
There is no apparent successor for Xi in the new squad, as expected. Li Qiang’s ascension to second place demonstrates the importance of ties to Xi.
As Shanghai’s party chairman, Li was a focal point for some of the indignation from those who avoided censorship during the agonising two-month COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year. Li and Xi, on the other hand, have a long history together, with Li acting as Xi’s chief of staff when Xi was the provincial party leader in Zhejiang.
Ding Xuexiang, Xi’s personal secretary and gatekeeper, is another new member of the Standing Committee and the Standing Committee’s youngest member at 60 years old. Ding is the influential General Office’s chief of the party Central Committee, which controls the administrative affairs of the top leadership.
Cai Qi, 66, who formerly served as Beijing’s party head, joins the Standing Committee after working under Xi for 20 years in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang.
Li Xi, the 66-year-old party chairman of the economically strong Guangdong province, is the fourth newcomer. Despite the fact that they do not have a shared history of collaboration like the other three, experts believe Li and Xi have similar ideas.
The statement followed the expulsion of Li Keqiang and Wang Yang from the bigger Central Committee. Analysts saw them as relative moderates who were still young enough to serve in major decision-making organisations for a longer period of time. Both have ties to the Communist Youth League, a once-powerful organisation that experts say has lost clout under Xi.
Hu Chunhua, a vice premier with Youth League roots who was seen as a possible candidate for the premiership by some party observers, was also conspicuously absent from Sunday’s launch. Hu, 59, was not re-elected by the Politburo, which currently has 24 members, one fewer than usual.
Women are likewise not represented on the Politburo. Sun Chunlan, the previous Politburo’s lone female member, retired.
When he eliminated the presidential term limit in 2018, Xi—who was also re-appointed as chairman of the Central Military Commission on Sunday—set the stage for his rule to last longer than ten years. His term as president is expected to be extended during the annual legislative session in March, when the new premier will also be publicly named.
Yang Zhang, an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, said that because Xi has complete power, his team will be held entirely responsible for any policy mistakes.
The Western countries lead by the United States may respond more forcefully internationally in response to his regime. Because of all of these possibilities, he believes his third and possibly fourth tenure will be more complicated than expected.