The Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) main five-yearly congress, which includes 2,296 “elected” delegates from its branches from across the country, will conclude its week-long meeting with the election of the Central Committee, the party’s main body.
The current Central Committee has 376 members with 205 full members and 171 alternate members. Congress will determine the size of the new Central Committee according to the party’s published rules.
The new Central Committee will meet on Sunday to elect a Politburo, which will in turn elect a Standing Committee, believed to be the party’s most powerful body as it governs the country.
The Standing Committee will meet on the same day to elect the Secretary-General, who will be the supreme leader of the country of 1.4 billion people.
The current Politburo has 25 members and the Standing Committee consists of seven members, including 69-year-old Xi, who remains the party’s general secretary since 2012.
Xi, who completes a 10-year term this year, will become the first Chinese leader after party founder Mao Zedong to remain in power, ending three decades of rule, followed by his predecessors to retire after two five-year terms .
Observers say the new term will set him on course to stay in power for life like Mao.
After the end of the new election process, Xi will appear before the media along with the new members of the Standing Committee.
A large number of Beijing-based journalists have already been locked into a closed system to cover the media appearance of the new leaders for the past four days.
The end of the 20th Congress will herald brand new leaders at every level, with the exception of Xi, who is expected to remain a powerful leader who will continue to hold the offices of President of China, CPC Secretary-General and Central Chairman Military Commission (CMC), the high command of the two million strong Chinese military.
Premier Li Keqiang, 66, the number two in the rankings, has already announced that he will not continue in his post, although he is still below the official age limit of 68.
The new government will take office next March after the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s parliament.
Ahead of the 20th Congress, Beijing witnessed rare public protests, with banners hung on overpasses of major thoroughfares protesting Xi’s unpopular zero-COVID policy and authoritarian rule.
Banners with slogans were posted on a bridge in Haidian District, home of universities and technology firms in Beijing: food, no COVID test; reform, not a cultural revolution; freedom instead of lockdowns; voices, no leader; dignity, not lies; Citizens, not slaves.
In some places, battery-powered speakers were hung, blaring anti-Xi and anti-Zero-COVID slogans.
The police quickly moved in to remove the banners and loudspeakers. Similar reports of protests came from different cities in China.
After the banners appeared, security in Beijing was further tightened with the deployment of police on most of the city’s bridges and underpasses.
In addition to electing the new Central Committee, the Congress, which has sparked interest in India and the rest of the world, is expected to approve, among other things, a major amendment to the party’s constitution that incorporates “Xi Jinping Thought,” the new theoretical doctrine which further elevates his position in the party.
The 2017 CCP Congress amended its charter “Xi Jinping’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. Experts believe the new revision of the party charter would put Xi’s status out of the question.
Xi could shorten the tongue-twisting political thought to “Xi Jinping Thoughts,” which would put him on par with party founder Mao in party ideology, said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of National University of Singapore Public Policy.
“The current version is 16 characters long in Chinese and is difficult for most people to remember. If he can shorten it to ‘Xi Jinping Thoughts’ — with just five characters — not only will it travel better, but it will also make him look like Mao’s equal,” Wu recently told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday hinted at Xi’s attendance at next month’s G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, which is expected to be his first trip abroad during which he will have the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to attend the Bali summit.