China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping has further expanded his power and will lead the People's Republic for at least another five years. At its first plenary session on Sunday in Beijing, the new Central Committee of the Communist Party voted as expected for a third term for the 69-year-old as general secretary and head of the military commission.
He is thus disregarding previously respected age and term limits - and with his sole rule he ties in with the founder of the state and revolutionary Mao Tsetung, who brought chaos to the country.
Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin congratulated Xi Jinping on his re-election. "The results of the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress have fully confirmed your great political authority and the unity of the party you lead," read the congratulatory telegram published by the Kremlin on Sunday. He is convinced that Xi's re-election will strengthen China's further rise and hopes for the expansion of Russian-Chinese cooperation, Putin also wrote.
At the end of its week-long session the day before, the party congress, which only takes place every five years, anchored Xi Jinping's ideology and his permanent leadership role more deeply in the party constitution and demanded unconditional loyalty. At a press conference after the Central Committee meeting in the Great Hall of the People, Xi Jinping introduced his new leadership team, which he has appointed loyal followers.
Will Li Qiang become the new prime minister?
The Shanghai party leader Li Qiang surprisingly took the second place on the podium in the powerful seven-strong Standing Committee of the Politburo. The rise of the 63-year-old suggests that Xi Jinping's close confidante is set to become the new prime minister in March. The party leader of the eastern Chinese port metropolis was heavily criticized for the chaotic course of the two-month corona lockdown in Shanghai.
The previous head of government, Li Keqiang, is retiring prematurely and is no longer a member of the Central Committee, although he is only 67 years old. He has already announced that he intends to step down as prime minister at the annual meeting of the People's Congress in March. He belonged to a different party camp than Xi Jinping, which led to speculation about differences. Also, as head of government, Li Keqiang never had the same power as his predecessors.
Key members of the business team are missing
In the new Central Committee, which has 370 members and candidates, important members of the previous economic team are missing despite the uncertain economic times in China, although not all have reached the age limit. In addition to Vice Premier Liu He (70), younger executives such as Central Bank Governor Yi Gang (64), Finance Minister Liu Kun (65) and the head of banking supervision, Guo Shuqing (66), are no longer represented and are therefore likely to step down in the government reshuffle in March.
According to China experts, the special leadership role of Vice Premier Liu He (70), who led the negotiations in the ongoing trade war with the USA, is said to be the economic expert and current head of the influential Reform and Development Commission (NDRC), He Lifeng (67). , take over.
Despite his age, Foreign Minister Wang Yi (69) remains a member of the new Central Committee. That suggests the senior diplomat could replace 72-year-old Yang Jiechi as the party's state councilor and top foreign policy officer, suggesting continuity. Apparently, there are also no age limits for the deputy military chief, General Zhang Youxia: The 72-year-old close confidant of Xi Jinping was confirmed as deputy chief of the military commission.
Incident around China's ex-party leader explained with malaise
State media explained a much-noticed incident involving the former Chinese head of state and party leader Hu Jintao at the end of the party conference in Beijing with the 79-year-old being unwell. The incident, in which Hu Jintao was led off the podium by two assistants, apparently against his will, from his seat next to State and Party leader Xi Jinping, had sparked much speculation.
Hu Jintao insisted on attending the session even though he had just "taken time to recover," the official Xinhua news agency wrote, without mentioning a specific illness. "When he was not feeling well during the session, due to his health, his staff took him to a room near the meeting to rest. He is much better now."
The evening news also featured prominently images of Hu Jintao attending the session. The mention speaks against possible political backgrounds, which had promptly been speculated about. Hu Jintao is not necessarily a supporter of Xi Jinping. The frail-looking ex-party leader also seemed visibly irritated, at one point reaching for papers from Xi Jinping.