For more than two decades, a new general secretary has been appointed at every Congress of the Communist Party.
But since the last Congress in 2017, Xi Jinping has expressed his intention to maintain a firm grip on all aspects of what is considered China’s triple power: control of the party, the state and the military.
In the last Congress of 2017, he broke with tradition and did not raise a potential successor to the Standing Committee.
Then, a month later, China’s rubber-stamp legislature abolished term limits for China’s president. This was seen as allowing Xi to continue for a third term as head of state, while maintaining control of the Communist Party, where the real power lies.
While there is no formal term limit for the general secretary, continuing in the party’s top role would require Xi to break with another unwritten rule: the party’s informal age limit.
Excluding term limits: The rule is that senior officials who are 68 years of age or older at the time of Congress will retire. At the age of 69, Xi would scuttle this latest agreement while remaining in power.
What’s less clear is whether he wants to grant exemptions to other Politburo allies, breaking one of the party’s neutral methods of ensuring turnover, or, conversely, to throw out some existing members that could lower the retirement age for others.
Amending the Constitution: Xi is also expected to strengthen his legacy, possibly through amendments to the party constitution, a regular feature of every Congress.
Last month, the Politburo discussed these changes in a scheduled meeting, according to a government statement that did not include specifics.
In 2017, Xi became the first leader since Mao Zedong—the founder of Communist China—to enshrine his philosophy in the constitution while still in power. Oserer suggested that Xi’s core principles could be further internalized this time around.
These details will be a sign of Xi’s power in the upper echelons of the party, and how strong his support is as he enters his third term as leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries.
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