Xi Jinping expected to be confirmed for second term at party congress

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives to attend a tribute ceremony in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives to attend a tribute ceremony in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed for a second five-year term in a leadership reshuffle next month, at a closely watched meeting that is seen as a test of his power.

About 2,300 delegates, including senior officials, will meet in Beijing on Oct 18 for the party congress, which is held once every five years. Besides confirming Mr Xi, they are expected to appoint a new cohort of officials under him.

Mr Xi, one of the most influential Chinese leaders in decades, is likely to emerge from the meeting even stronger. As President, he has reasserted China's power in Asia, restructured the military and led an anti-corruption campaign that has ensnared scores of low-level and high-ranking officials, including what some observers describe as his political rivals. Now, he is poised to win an even broader mandate for his policies and authoritarian style by stacking the party's most influential bodies with close allies.

He may also defy the standard script and lay the groundwork for extending his tenure by delaying the designation of a successor.

"He's large and in charge," said senior adviser Christopher Johnson at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

He said Mr Xi's performance at the congress would have more than just domestic implications. It is also likely to determine Chinese policy towards the United States at a time of increasing friction over issues such as trade and North Korea's nuclear programme, he added.

"If Xi has a big win in the congress, I think that gives him full freedom of action to manage the relationship how he chooses," Mr Johnson said, adding that options include standing up to the demands from US President Donald Trump.

At the congress, at least 11 of the 25 members of the Politburo are expected to retire, unless an informal rule requiring members to step down if they are 68 or older at the time of the congress is relaxed. That includes five of the seven members of the even more powerful Politburo Standing Committee.

Party congresses usually last 10 days. But details must first be approved by a meeting of the party's Central Committee, which brings together hundreds of senior officials. The congress will elect a new Central Committee, which in turn will anoint the new leadership. Mr Xi is likely to present his new line-up publicly at the end of the congress.

The congress will select only party positions. The new government line-up will be appointed at a meeting of the legislature, the National People's Congress, which is likely to convene in March. Mr Xi is then almost certain to be reappointed president and Mr Li Keqiang is likely to win another term as premier.

In the months leading up to the congress, Mr Xi has shown a willingness to rework the rules of elite succession politics and to further consolidate his power.

In July, for example, the party dismissed Mr Sun Zhengcai, a fast-rising politician in Sichuan province who had once been considered on track for a national post, and placed him under investigation.

At the congress, Mr Xi is likely to press to enshrine his ideology in the party's Constitution, helping to solidify his legacy, analysts said.

Xinhua, the official news agency, reported that the "spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's series of important speeches" would be among the guiding ideas at the congress, alongside those of former leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'Xi expected to be confirmed for second term at party congress'. Print Edition | Subscribe