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Xi Jinping has upended two decades of Communist party orthodoxy by taking a third term as general-secretary, and has installed a team of loyalists to his Politburo.
During the 20th Communist Party Congress, most of the previous seven-me PolitburoStanding Committee (PSC) were replaced, with the exception of Xi, Zhao Leji and Wang Huning.
The standing committee is part of the larger Politburo, of which there are usually 25 members but has shrunk to 24. There are no women in the the 20th Politburo, and according to Axios, this is the first time this has happened for 25 years.
Also notable is that Premier Li Keqiang did not continue on in the Politburo despite being only 67, and that Xi continues on despite being 69. According to Reuters, under an unofficial "seven-up, eight-down rule", Politburo members who are 68 or older retire during the party congress.
Xi’s position is consolidated further by having most of the Standing Committee made up of loyalists who have been connected to him since his time rising through the party ranks.
Symbolic of this is Li Qiang, Xi's former chief of staff who's expected to take over as Premier in March when Li Keqiang’s term completes.
According to the Financial Times, Li Qiang is a Xi Jinping loyalist who “does not look ‘anti-business’ to investors”.
An article by Bloomberg indicated that Li Qiang’s promotion was indicative of the total power that Xi wielded over the CCP. At the same time, those associated with other camps had failed to secure any positions of power. For instance, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua was kept out of the 24-member Politburo.
Li Qiang had been thought of as a competent Party Secretary of Shanghai prior to the the Covid pandemic.
However, this image was shaken last year during Shanghai’s lockdown, which has been described by many outlets as “disastrous”. The Bloomberg article highlighted clashes between residents and public officials, and negative postings on social media. Such is the public reaction to lockdowns that the hint of one occurring can send people running for the exits, as has been shown on multiple occasions.
Li Qiang, as reported by Al Jazeera, has not previously managed a central government portfolio. His elevation to one of the highest positions in the party despite that implies that his promotion was perhaps more due to connections than merit.
This appears to be a profile of several of the new standing committee members, with both the Al Jazeera and the Financial Times highlighting the rapid rises of Li Qiang and Ding Xuexiang, having skipped over other roles traditionally thought to be essential to high office. These outlets are taking these to be an indication of the value of loyalty over proven merit.
Also, as the Financial Times points out, the PSC has always been made up of politicians from different factions of the party in order to provide a check on the leader's power.
What lies ahead for China's future under the new leadership consisting of solely Xi's allies remains unknown.
Top image via @Wanli_Xiong/Twitter
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