President Xi Jinping appraises China’s top leaders in another first for all-powerful party chief

Newly inaugurated annual review sees Politburo members assessed on performance, loyalty to the party

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 3:11pm

After successfully doing away with presidential term limits, Xi Jinping has achieved another first, by becoming the first head of China’s Communist Party to conduct end-of-year appraisals for all 24 members of its Politburo.

According to a report published by Xinhua on Wednesday, the country’s most powerful people were recently measured against seven criteria, including their support for Xi’s authority, their readiness to learn and promote his political thought, and their initiative in reporting matters of importance.

They were also assessed on their adherence to party rules, openness to self-criticism, implementation of the central leadership’s decisions, and willingness to conduct research into issues of public concern.

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Each member of the Politburo – China’s top decision-making body – was required to submit a written report to Xi in what is expected to become an annual event. The decision to implement the new procedure was agreed soon after the national party congress in October.

“Xi Jinping read the reports from the Politburo comrades and issued important demands to [them],” the Xinhua report said. “Xi stressed that [they] … shoulder huge responsibility as leaders.”

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At the annual session of the National People’s Congress, which ended on Tuesday in Beijing, China’s rubber-stamp legislature gave its near unanimous approval for sweeping changes to the constitution, the most notable being the removal of presidential term limits that enables Xi, as the most powerful leader in decades, to stay in the position beyond 2023.

The NPC also endorsed several other revisions to the charter designed to cement the party’s control, including the creation of a new supervisory agency that extends the powers of its anti-corruption watchdog. The authority of the party was also written into the constitution, as was Xi’s eponymous political theory.

While the Xinhua report did not go into details of how individual Politburo members fared in their appraisals, it said they had sought their leader’s instructions when faced with major problems, had been loyal and, as was their duty, reported to Xi on the progress of their work in executing the party’s plans.

They were also free from corruption – as were their families and subordinates – and committed to the single political path set by the party with Xi as its core, it said.

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Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said the new appraisal system was a clear statement that Xi was less of a comrade and more of a supervisor to his fellow members of the Politburo.

“Once the practice is institutionalised, the division of work among Politburo members might become clearer as they will all have to present written reports to Xi,” he said.

“However, once on paper, those reports could also be damning for Xi if his decisions prove to be wrong.”

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