China’s next core of power has surfaced
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A day after the weeklong, twice-a-decade 20th CCP Congress ended, President Xi introduced the government’s new dream team at a press conference. The new Politburo Standing Committee, which is basically a presidential cabinet at the top of government, includes Xi and six of his associates. As expected, Xi also entered a historic third term as general secretary of the CCP Central Committee. The two-term limit for president was removed in 2018, but there is no limit to the general secretary position, arguably the most powerful in China’s government. Now, Xi is arguably the most powerful leader in China after Mao Zedong.
So who will be ruling China in the next five years? The seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee are Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi.
Li Qiang is expected to take over as premier when Li Keqiang retires in March. Zhao Leji is expected to be the chairman of the Standing Committee, and Wang Huning is likely to take over as chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Cai Qi is the Party’s Central Secretariat, the body responsible for the Politburo’s routine operations. Lastly, Ding Xuexiang is in line to take over as the top-ranked vice premier, and Li Xi is set to be the head of the CCP’s disciplinary inspection body.
Among all the members, the positions of Li Xi and Cai Qi have been confirmed, and the others are predicted according to previous arrangements of the committee. Also, without any opposition to Xi in the party, he is expected to secure another term as president in March 2023.
“China cannot develop without the world, and the world also needs China,” Xi said in the press conference announcing his new team. He added: “After more than 40 years of unflagging efforts towards reform and opening up, we have created two miracles – rapid economic development and long-term social stability.”
“This new lineup is not a product of power sharing or horse trading among different factions, but basically it is the result or consequence of Xi’s authority,” said Chen Gang, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute.
“In terms of policymaking, it does mean that there is likely to be more deference to Xi Jinping’s own views about how to move the country and the economy forward,” said Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets in Singapore.
“The result was a resounding victory for Xi, more decisive than many experienced observers had forecast. All of his rivals, potential and real, have been forced out of the Politburo Standing Committee and Xi loyalists took their place. The new Politburo is an emphatic statement of Xi’s dominance over the party,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow for East Asia at Lowy Institution in Sydney.