China's leadership line-up solidifies Xi's long-term rule: The Japan News

The Communist Party of China's new Politburo Standing Committee, (from left) Han Zheng, Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Wang Yang and Zhao Leji meet the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
The Communist Party of China's new Politburo Standing Committee, (from left) Han Zheng, Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Wang Yang and Zhao Leji meet the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Oct 27, the paper remarks on China President Xi Jinping appointment show he will be in power for long.

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, China's president, has unveiled an extraordinary leadership line-up that indicates he has an eye on staying in power for the long term. There are concerns China's dictatorial regime will be further strengthened.

The party's Central Committee has held its national congress, at which the personnel line-up for Xi's second term as leader was decided.

Li Zhanshu, director of the party's General Office and Xi's close aide, was among those selected to the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China's supreme leadership body. Five members of the previous line-up had stepped down in line with the system under which Standing Committee members retire at 68.

Only Xi and Premier Li Keqiang stayed on.

Chen Miner, the Communist Party secretary of the city of Chongqing; and Hu Chunhua, the party secretary of Guangdong Province - two next-generation leaders in their 50s tipped as candidates to succeed Xi - were both named Politburo members, one step below the Standing Committee.

The custom under which potential successors are informally decided in advance and then appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee has been upended. It appears Xi is maneuvering to remain as leader for a third term and beyond after his current term ends in five years. Senior officials close to Xi also accounted for a majority of the 25 Politburo members, including those on the Standing Committee.

Xi also tightened his grip on power. At the Party Congress, "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" was stipulated as a guiding principle in the party's constitution, which is its supreme charter. Xi is the first Chinese leader since the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, to have a "thought" bearing his name stipulated in the party's constitution while they were still in office.

The problem is that Xi has declared in his own "thought" that the party will control all activities, and has justified the dictatorial regime.

During his first term, Xi was able to build a system in which he became the sole dominant leader in just five years by purging political rivals and opposing forces through an anti-corruption campaign. An air in which dissent is not tolerated and praise of Xi himself is spreading through Chinese society cannot be overlooked.

Strengthening controls on foreign companies and suppressing freedom of speech in the name of "national security" also is abnormal when viewed from Japan, the United States and European countries. As leader of the world's second-largest economy, Xi must stay keenly aware that he bears a heavy responsibility for actions that could sway the global economy.

Xi's objective of constructing a "powerful, modernised socialist nation" that would be on an equal footing with the United States by the middle of this century will only heighten other nations' sense of alarm unless China changes its actions that self-righteously expand its own interests, such as its military buildup in the South China Sea.

How will Japan face up to China, a nation essential for preserving peace and prosperity in East Asia? Japan's diplomatic prowess will be tested on this issue.

It will be necessary for leaders of both countries to regularly hold talks so they can build a relationship of trust.

Following the realisation of a Japan-China-South Korea summit meeting by the end of 2017, it would be desirable to set in motion arrangements for Xi's first visit to Japan as China's top leader.

In the new leadership bodies, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has spearheaded hard-line policies toward Japan, remained a member of the Central Committee. Close attention also will be focused on whether Wang will succeed State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who was promoted to the Politburo, and will be in a position to control China's diplomacy.

The Japan News is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.