How Xi’s Power Is Now Unchecked

In a break with tradition, President Xi Jinping was named to another term as head of the ruling Communist Party. He also promoted allies who support his vision of tighter control over society and the faltering economy, further solidifying his position as China‘s most powerful leader in decades.

Xi, who assumed leadership in 2012, was given a third five-year term as general secretary, breaking with tradition that called on his predecessor to step down after ten years in office. Some predict that the 69-year-old leader will attempt to secure a lifetime of rule.

After Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader and a champion for market-style reform and private enterprise, was ousted, the party also announced a seven-member Standing Committee, its inner circle of power, which is predominated by Xi loyalists.

The New Standing Committee

Li was a year younger than the party’s 68-year-old informal retirement age, but that was nonetheless the case. According to Hong Kong Baptist University professor Jean-Pierre Cabestan, “Xi Jinping will have much greater control over the country.” The new hires, according to him, are “all Xi faithful.” “The system has absolutely no counterbalance or checks and balances.”

Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, exited the party Central Committee meeting without warning with an assistant holding his arm. Hu is 79 years old. That raised concerns about whether Xi was abusing his position by ejecting other political figures. Hu is in bad health and needs to relax, according to a subsequent report from the official Xinhua News Agency.

In the Great Hall of the People, the location of China’s ceremonial legislature in the heart of Beijing, Xi and the other members of the Standing Committee—none of whom were women—appeared before reporters for the first time as a group.

Li Qiang, the Shanghai party secretary, was the No. 2 leader. As a result, Li Qiang, who is not related to Li Keqiang, is now in position to become China’s premier and top economic leader. Already a member, Zhao Leji was elevated to No. 3, most likely to serve as the legislature’s leader. When the legislature convenes the next year, those positions will be filled. By making no reforms, officials let down investors and the Chinese people.

The starting lineup seemed to embody what some analysts labelled “Maximum Xi,” which prioritised devotion above talent. As vice premier or Cabinet minister, experience at the national level is often seen as a qualification for the position, however some new leaders lack it. The elevation of Li Qiang, who has no prior experience in national government, served as an obvious confirmation. Because of their early 2000s collaboration in the southeast’s Zhejiang province, Li Qiang is seen as being close to Xi.

Over the past ten years, Li Keqiang has been marginalized by Xi, who appointed himself to lead the groups that make policy. Li Keqiang was omitted from the list of the party’s 205 new Central Committee members on Saturday.

Wang Yang, a proponent of reform and potential premier, also resigned from the Standing Committee. Wang is still working at the age of 67.

Other new Standing Committee members include Ding Xuexiang, a senior party official who is viewed as Xi’s “alter ego” or chief of staff, and Cai Qi, the Beijing party secretary. Former dean of the law school and current head of ideology Wang Huning continued to serve on the committee. Li Xi, the party secretary of Guangdong province in southeast China, the hub of the country’s export-oriented manufacturing sector, is the No. 7 member.

The future od China

11 women, or 5% of the entire Central Committee, are female. Since the 1990s, the 24-member Politburo has only had four female members; however, with the departure of Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, it has none.

In response to warnings that rolling back market-oriented reforms will have an adverse effect on economic growth, which slowed to 2.2% in the first half of this year — less than half the stated 5.5 term objective — the party has tightened control over entrepreneurs who create employment and wealth.

Under the resurrected propaganda slogan “shared prosperity” from the 1950s, Xi is pressuring businesspeople to help close the wealth gap in China by boosting wages and funding rural job development and other projects.

Xi called for “controlling the process of wealth accumulation” in a report to congress last week, implying that business owners would face further political pressure.

Leaders in the private sector, such as Alibaba Group, a major player in e-commerce, are now subject to tighter party supervision. They are directing billions of dollars under political pressure into chip research and other party endeavors. The uncertainty surrounding their future has caused their share values to plummet in overseas markets.