China unveils new top leadership, Xi gets second term

Published On: October 26, 2017 09:00 AM NPT By: Sangeet Sangroula  | @SangeetJourno

BEIJING, Oct 26: With the end of the 19th National Congress, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has elected new leadership for the party’s politburo standing committee, the top decision-making body of China, with President Xi Jinping as the party general secretary for the second five-year tenure.

The first plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee convened at the Great Hall of People on Wednesday re-elected 64-year-old President Xi as the general secretary and appointed other six leaders of the seven-member standing committee -- Li Keqiang, 62, Li Zhanshu, 67, Wang Yang, 62, Wang Huning, 62, Zhao Leji, 60, and Han Zheng, 63.
Following the session, Xi attended a press conference accompanied by the six newly-elected members of the standing committee at the Great Hall of the People and presented the new members of the standing committee based on their hierarchy.
“I was re-elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. I see this as not just approval of my work, but also encouraged that will spur me on,” Xi announced and introduced the top leaders to reporters. Xi was elected as the general secretary in 2012. 
Only Xi, 64, and Premier Li Keqiang, 62, were left in the seven-member standing committee after five members stepped down following the party tradition of not assuming any new post after the age of 68. The five members of the standing committee who stepped down were Zhang Gaoli, 71, Yu Zhengsheng, 72, Liu Yunshan, 70, Zhang Dejiang, 71, and Wang Qishan, 69. 

Even though the party has appointed five new members to the standing committee, none of them has a prospect of succeeding President Xi in 2022 given that all seven members of the standing committee are already over 60 and there is a tradition of the general secretary serving two five-year terms. The general secretary of the party is selected from among the leaders of the standing committee, and the newly-elected leaders are all too old to serve more than one term. So, the appointment of the leaders over 60 in the standing committee is being viewed as a possible move by the party to extend President Xi’s tenure as the party general secretary for the third term in 2022. If that happens, President Xi will be at helm till 2027.  

Then, he went on to add, “Not only must we deliver the first centenary goal, we must also embark on the journey toward the second centenary goal.” 

Xi, whose political ideology was inscribed in the party constitution on Tuesday by his name, seeks to develop China into moderately prosperous society by 2021, which marks a century of the establishment of the CPC, and modern socialist country by 2049, which will mark a century of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. This ambitious plan of Xi has been dubbed as ‘Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation’ while his ideological contribution has been titled ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics on a New Era.’  

Xi reiterated that China will make determined efforts to comprehensively deepen reform and open still wider to the world. 

All the standing committee members were born after 1949 and they began their political career around the time of the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, according to Xinhua, the state-owned news agency. 

“The leadership reshuffle of the CPC, the world’s biggest political party, is an answer to the needs of the Party and the nation for the development of their causes,” Xinhua quoted Yang Fengcheng, professor at Renmin University of China and a researcher on CPC history as saying.

Xi was also re-elected as the head of the CPC Central Military Commission on Wednesday at the plenum attended by 204 members and 172 alternate members of the CPC Central Committee. On Tuesday, the last day of the congress, the party had amended the constitution to include the statement that the party will implement Xi’s thinking to strengthen military and uphold the party’s absolute leadership over military.
After the election of the members of the standing committee, the plenum also approved Zhao Leji, the new standing committee member, as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the anti-graft body of the party. Zhao was the head of the CPC Central Committee Organization Department, a key body which oversees transfer of party members across the country.

Similarly, Li Zhanshu, who was promoted to politburo committee member by the 18th Congress, is currently director of CPC Central Committee General Office, Vice Premier Wang Yang, who had recently visited Nepal, has been member of the Politburo since 17th National Congress. Likewise, Wang Huning is currently director of Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee and the Office of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform and was promoted to Politburo in the 18th Congress. Hang Zheng, who also became politburo member in the 18th Congress, is currently secretary of CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee. However, the party is yet to decide on their new position after being the standing committee members. 

Xinhua has stated that all the other six Standing Committee members have also been active practitioners of reform and opening up policies. Either at the central government or the local level, all members have driven an array of major reforms, explored theories, and solved deep-rooted problems with open minds, foresight and innovative thinking.

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