Symbolic leave of Hu Jintao could be the future perspective of China

  • What happened to President Hu Jintao in the closing ceremony of the CCP?
  • How was the leadership of Xi Jinping last term?
  • Who are the essential people surrounding Xi?
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is set to confirm President Xi Jinping for a historic third term as its leader and unveil members of its all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

Xi’s appointment as the CCP’s general secretary on Sunday will cement his position as China’s most influential leader since Mao Zedong and tilt the country decisively back towards one-person rule after decades of power-sharing among its elite.

Li Keqiang, the nations second in command, is a proponent of market-oriented reforms, contrasting Xi’s moves to expand state control over the economy. While not unexpected, his removal from the PSC signals Xi’s tight hold on power in the world’s second-largest economy.

In an unusual moment during the closing ceremony, former President Hu Jintao, seated next to Xi, was escorted off the stage.

Looking distressed, Hu, 79, appeared to resist leaving as stewards escorted him out. He had seemed slightly unsteady last Sunday when Xi assisted him onto the same stage.

State media reported late on Saturday that Hu had insisted on attending the session despite being unwell.

The footage, published by AFP, showed a steward repeatedly trying to lift Hu from his seat, drawing concerned looks from nearby officials. Hu then put his hand on a sheet of paper placed in Xi’s folder, but Xi quickly put his hand on the sheet. China’s top legislator, Li Zhanshu, seated to Xi’s right, gave the former president’s folder to a steward, wiping his head with a cloth after Hu finally stood up.

Looking distressed, Hu resisted leaving as the stewards escorted him out, turning back to his seat at one point. On his way out, he exchanged words with Xi and patted the premier, Li Keqiang – seated to the right of Xi – on the shoulder. Video of the incident – highly unusual given the meticulous stage management of most such events – was widely shared on Twitter but could not be found on China’s heavily censored social media platforms.

“When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better,” state media Xinhua said on Twitter.

The speculation ran from a health crisis to an attempted protest by the 79-year-old former leader or a political purge by current President Xi Jinping. Xi has previously gone after retired officials on corruption charges, though never one as high-ranking as Hu. Major party events can be trying: Former top leader Hu Yaobang died of a heart attack during a meeting at 73, setting off the student-led pro-democracy movement that led to Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The spectacle was, in the words of longtime China watcher Bill Bishop, “humiliating.”In his newsletter, the “image of Hu Jintao being led out is a perfect symbol of Xi’s absolute decimation of the ‘Communist Youth League faction,” Bishop wrote.

At the Congress, the party also approved amendments to its constitution aimed at cementing the core status of Xi and the guiding role of his political thought within the party, which has about 96 million members. Among the amendments, the “Two Establishes” define Xi as the “core” leader of the party and his ideas as the guiding principles of China’s future development. The “Two Safeguards” assure Xi’s “core” status within the party and the party’s centralised authority over China.

Xi abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to rule indefinitely.

Over ten years as leader, he has tightened his grip on the Communist party and the party’s grip on the country. He has weeded out rivals and enemies through anti-corruption purges and cracked down on grassroots dissent by tightening censorship and surveillance.

Hong Kong, once a base for Beijing’s critics, has lost its democratic freedoms of speech and assembly after Xi ended its semi-autonomous status. It’s entirely possible that Xi could stay in power for another 10 to 15 years. He has already removed constitutional and other shackles on term limits, and his age is no hindrance. After all, U.S. President Joe Biden will turn 82 before the end of his current term, whereas Xi won’t turn 82 until 2035. To be sure, Xi cannot define China’s destiny by himself: Several other factors will shape China’s future, including the international system, rivalry with the United States, and China’s national characteristics and constraints.

Since Xi came to power in 2012, China’s foreign policy and interaction with the world have changed significantly. 

China no longer hides its power. When Xi took over the reins in 2012, China’s GDP had surpassed Japan’s, and its navy was still weaker than Japan’s. Today, China is a superpower and the only peer competitor of the United States.

Unity is key. He said that means no divisions. And China is at a historic opportunity as Xi Jinping sees it. It faces risks. He mentioned security dozens of times in this speech – national security, political security, economic security, and food security- which highlights his concerns as the leader.

Xi Jinping has appointed to the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of power, officials who have longstanding ties to him, sometimes dating back decades, or who have vigorously carried out his agenda and promoted his ideology.

For His 3rd Term, Xi Jinping Surrounds Himself With Loyalists; the members are:

  • Mr Xi: As a party leader, he retains his title as head of the military and is likely to remain state president.
  • Li Qiang: A new member. As party chief of Shanghai, he oversaw a contentious Covid lockdown. But his longstanding ties to Mr Xi appeared to help him through.
  • Zhao Leji: The low-key head of the party’s agency for investigating corruption and disloyalty.
  • Wang Huning: The party’s veteran ideological seer who has shaped Mr Xi’s nationalist ideas. He may get a new role.
  • Cai Qi: A new member. His ties to Mr Xi go back over two decades to Fujian Province. Mr Xi showed his trust by appointing him the party chief of Beijing, the all-important capital.
  • Ding Xuexiang: A new member. A close aide to Mr Xi, he almost always travels with the top leader and helps him manage party matters.
  • Li Xi: A new member. He is the party secretary of Guangdong Province, where he tightened top-down control. He leads the party’s agency for investigating corrupt or disloyal officials.

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