China’s top Communist Party leaders make final preparations behind closed doors ahead of 20th party congress as Xi Jinping looks set for third term in power
- The Central Committee wrapped up the 4-day plenum where senior cadres will have been briefed about the major leadership shake-up to be announced next week
- Next week’s set piece is also expected to see changes to the party’s constitution that will further cement Xi’s position and that of his political philosophy
The four-day closed-door plenum meeting of 358 full and alternative Central Committee members is the last gathering of the party elite before the national congress starts on Sunday, where they will be joined by some 2,000 other delegates from across the country.
The gathering was the first time senior party officials had heard directly from the top leadership about the plans and changes that will be announced next week.
In Chinese politics, key decisions are often made before the formal meeting and are kept on a need-to-know basis. The congress will serve as an occasion for delegates to legitimise the decisions and communicate them to the public.
The report released by the official news agency Xinhua on Wednesday gave little detail about the plenum meeting. It just said the members “reviewed the current situation and key tasks” and carried out in-depth discussions of major issues concerning China’s development.
It added: “They are now fully prepared for the 20th party congress.”
Xi briefed the Central Committee members about the work report he is going to deliver, in which he is expected to unveil the strategic plan for China for the next five years and beyond.
The most important decisions will be about changes to the senior leadership.
The twice-a-decade party congress marks a major transition of power as the leadership is reshuffled.
The whole process will only be completed next March at the annual parliamentary sessions, after changes in key government posts are confirmed.
But the reshuffle at the party congress will be the most significant as Xi unveils the new party leadership team who will be the main supporting cast for his legacy-defining third term.
A tally by the South China Morning Post, based on the customary retirement age rules, suggests that nearly half the seats on the Central Committee will change hands. While the customary age limits are no longer as restrictive as before, most China experts agree that Xi will be selective about what exemptions are made.
Xinhua’s report did not mention personnel changes. Instead, it highlighted the difficulties and challenges that China had faced over the past “extraordinary and unusual” five years.
It cited challenges including the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest in Hong Kong and the Ukraine War.
While the report did not mention the rising tensions with the United States, it noted that China is facing an “increasingly complex and difficult” international environment and many pressing challenges.
The Central Committee was told the party had successfully guided China through these challenges by faithfully adhering to Xi’s leadership, and members were told to rally “ever more closely” behind him to ensure the success of the party congress, Xinhua added.
“In the past year, in the face of a complex and severe international environment and the difficult mission of a stable domestic development, the Politburo fully implemented Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and led the entire party, military and people of all ethnicities … to coordinate coronavirus pandemic control and socioeconomic development,” it said.
It also said the party leadership had begun a “great struggle” against separatism and foreign interference, issues that Beijing says have plagued Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.
The cadres also hailed recent successes in the party’s anti-corruption campaign and approved the Central Committee’s work report for the past five years, which will be delivered by Xi at the 20th party congress.
Their downfall is arguably the biggest purge in China’s security system since Xi launched his far-reaching anti-corruption campaign.
Shen, former vice-president of China’s supreme court, is awaiting trial on corruption charges.