Xi Set for Clean Sweep With China Allies Dominating Leadership

PRESIDENT Xi Jinping (picture) is officially set for a third term surrounded by allies, after key Communist Party officials without close ties to the Chinese leader exited the nation’s top leadership body.

The 200-member Central Committee featured Xi and a host of his loyalists, while Premier Li Keqiang, 67, and fellow Communist Youth League veteran Wang Yang, 67, left the body. That paves the way for Xi to consolidate control over the country’s most powerful positions when they are unveiled later this weekend.

Xi presided over the closing session of the twice-a-decade congress on Saturday morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, state media said. The new Politburo Standing Committee will be announced on Sunday at noon, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese leader’s presence on the list provides the first official confirmation the 69-year-old intends to ignore the party’s unwritten retirement age of 68. It also basically guarantees his return for a third term when top leadership posts are unveiled.

Xi cast aside retirement rules that have dictated who governs the world second-largest economy for the past three decades. Breaking the upper age cap, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 69, and General Zhang Youxia, 72, vice chairman of Central Military Commission, also remained. Others were ushered out early: Li and Wang became the first Standing Committee members to retire prematurely since at least 1992, according to a Bloomberg data analysis.

The inclusion of other cadres over age 68 would reduce some of the scrutiny on Xi’s decision to stay in power, said Neil Thomas, a China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk advisory and consulting firm. The choice of Wang and Zhang, in particular, suggests “the importance of these portfolios to Xi as he prepares Beijing to lean in to strategic competition with the United States,” Thomas added.

The new Central Committee represents the culmination of Xi’s decade-long effort to consolidate power since rising to the top position a decade ago. It also illustrates his willingness to break the rules set by previous leaders to ensure Chinese politics revolve around him for the foreseeable future.

Former president Jiang Zemin established the retirement rule in the party’s 2002 reshuffle. The two-term succession system was established by reformer Deng Xiaoping three decades ago to avoid a return to the personality-driven rule of Mao Zedong.

Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, 79 — who was seated next to the Chinese leader — was escorted out of the event before it closed Saturday, causing some disruption on stage. Officials closely associated with Hu have largely been removed from the next Politburo, with the exception of Politburo member Hu Chunhua.

The new body also signaled a shake-up of the nation’s economic policy team at a time of heightened concern. Economic czar Liu He, 70, central bank governor Yi Gang, 64, Finance Minister Liu Kun, 65, and banking regulator Guo Shuqing, 66, were dropped off a list of full or alternate members of the Central Committee.

While that suggests they may retire, being left off the lists don’t automatically mean the officials will leave their government posts. Those positions may only become clearer in March 2023, when the national legislature meets. China also added the goal of realizing common prosperity to the party charter, baking a flagship Xi policies into one of the nation’s most important political documents.

The individuals named to the new Central Committee will run China’s government agencies, state companies, universities, media outlets and military commands over the next five years. 

“The replacement for the Politburo Standing Committee seems to be more rapid than what people thought it would be,” said Dylan Loh, an assistant professor of political science at Nanyang Technological University and founding editor of ThePolitburo.org online magazine. “For the Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Committee itself, it will very much be Xi-leaning.” – Bloomberg