Except Xi, the key Congress comprising over 2,000 delegates from all over the country will endorse a brand new official team for the world’s second largest economy as most of the top officials, including Premier Li Keqiang, who are in power for the past 10 years will either retire or get new positions at the congresses held every five years.
A Politburo meeting of the CPC which Xi, 69, presided over on Tuesday decided to hold the plenary meeting of the party on October 9 followed by the 20th Congress on October 16, according to an official announcement here.
The meeting stressed that the 20th CPC National Congress is of great significance to be convened at a crucial moment, as the whole Party and the entire nation embark on a new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects.
With the endorsement for the third term signifying his powerful hold on the party and the country, Xi was expected to attend the key international summits including the G20 to be held in Indonesia from November 15 to 16 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Thailand which begins a day later.
The CPC holds its all-important Congress once every five years during which it reviews the government and party work and endorses plans for the next five years.
Under the prevailing party conventions, the leadership and top officials change every 10 years.
Unlike his predecessors, who retired after 10-year tenures, Xi, who will be completing his second five-year tenure this year, is widely expected to be endorsed for a third term at the 20th Congress.
Emerging as the most powerful Chinese leader of the Communist Party of China in recent decades, Xi, unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao assumed the leadership of all three powerful wings, the party, the military and the presidency after his election as the General Secretary of the party in 2012-13.
Hu became the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the all-powerful high command of the Chinese military only two years after he became the General Secretary and President in 2003 as his predecessor Jiang Zemin continued to hold it to retain control over the power.
However, Xi, previously the Vice President succeeded Hu in 2012, starting his tenure with all three powerful posts.
Within a short time he emerged as the most powerful leader after Mao as he quickly consolidated his power carrying the biggest anti-corruption campaign in which over a million officials, including dozens of top military officials, were sacked or punished.
Xi, known as a ‘princeling’ as he was the son of former vice-premier Xi Zhongxun who was persecuted by Mao for his liberal views, rose to ranks steadily, becoming vice president under Hu.
While Xi had the image of a sedate leader in his previous postings, he transformed himself into the most ambitious and powerful leader soon after he took over the leadership of the party in 2012 and head of the military.
While there were reports of murmurs within the party about breaking the two-term convention, last year’s Plenary meeting adopted a landmark resolution to cement Xi’s “core” status in the country’s political history and cleared the decks for him to extend his rule for a record third term and perhaps for life.
China’s Constitution has already been amended in 2018 by the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament removing the two-tenure limit for the President.
The 20th Congress which formally marks the end of the ten-year tenure of Xi is expected to bring about a sea change as it formally ends the decade-year-old convention studiously followed by top leaders to retire after two five-year tenures. The leaders are also by convention retire after attaining 68 years.
Xi who has already been declared the “core leader” of the party in the last Congress has formally ended the collective leadership pattern of equality among the seven-member Standing Committee of the party, which governs the country.
Critics say under him the one-party system has become the one-leader system.
His supporters argue that his firm leadership has become all the more important because of as China whose economy was in a slowdown mode hit by the COVID-19 lockdowns and the deepening conflict with the US, EU, Japan and India.
From the day he took over, he advocated the realisation of the Chinese Dream, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, ending the careful and cautious rise of China “hiding its claws” to prevent a pushback from the world.
Under his leadership, China has firmly established its control over Hong Kong, diluting its ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and stepped up tensions in its bid to integrating Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its part of China.
Under Xi’s watch, the Chinese military has engaged in two serious standoffs with the Indian Army – in Doklam in 2017 and in eastern Ladakh in 2020 – despite his very promising informal summits with Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice. The eastern Ladakh standoff is still unresolved.
On the economic front Xi’s first term was consumed by efforts to reduce high debt, a dwindling demographic dividend, industrial overcapacity and a campaign to eliminate extreme poverty.
His second term was dominated by the trade war with the US and the handling of coronavirus which plunged the relations between the top two economies of the world to the lowest point.
Xi has already announced that the focus after the 20th Congress will be bring about “common prosperity” to reduce the growing inequalities in the country and a bigger role for state-owned enterprises blunting the role of the private sector.