Ruling party’s plenary session in China will strengthen Xi’s grip on power

Chinese President Xi Jinping, the undisputed leader of the world’s most populous nation, will lead a crucial plenary session of the ruling party’s top figures next week that will set the tone for his candidacy for a long-term government.

From Monday to Thursday, some 400 members of the all-powerful Communist Party Central Committee meet in Beijing behind closed doors.

The only such meeting this year sets the stage for its 20th party convention next fall, in which Xi is widely expected to be given a third term, solidifying his position as China’s most powerful leader since Mao. Zedong.

At next week’s plenary session, prominent figures will debate a key resolution celebrating the party’s major achievements in its 100-year existence, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Analysts say the resolution, only the third of its kind in the party’s history, will help Xi strengthen his grip on power by setting his vision for China in stone, ahead of the crucial party convention in 2022.

Like all secret meetings of top Beijing officials, the event will be held behind closed doors and most key decisions are made well in advance.

China’s political meetings are all highly choreographed, and open dissent to the official line is extremely rare.

“Natural heir”

The content has not yet been published in full, but the timing of the resolution is critical, as was the case with the two previous resolutions.

The first, adopted under Mao in 1945, helped him consolidate his authority over the Communist Party four years before he took power.

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The second, adopted under Deng Xiaoping in 1981, saw the regime adopt economic reforms and recognize the “mistakes” in Mao’s ways.

Unlike the previous two, Xi’s resolution will not mark a break with the past, Anthony Saich of Harvard University told AFP.

“Rather, it is intended to show that Xi is the natural heir to a process since the founding of the party that qualifies him to lead in the ‘new era’,” said Saich, an expert on Chinese politics.

“The aim is to consolidate Xi as a natural heir to the CCP’s ‘glorious history’,” he added, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Saich also said the resolution will likely mark a step back from Deng’s text in that it will be less critical of the Mao era from 1949 to 1976.

Under Mao’s grip, tens of millions of people starved to death as the regime sought to force the country to form communes.

In the decade before his death, he sparked the Cultural Revolution, an era of violence that marked the national psyche.

Under Deng, the party saw an attempt to escape a repeat of Mao’s personality cult – if only to ensure the continuity of his rule.

‘Undisputed’

According to dissident political scientist Wu Qiang, who lost his job as a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing because of his research, approval of the resolution would mean “Xi Jinping’s authority is unchallenged.”

Wu also believes the plenum will solidify China’s path to a more “controlled and planned” economy – as evidenced by Xi’s continued drive to regulate the country’s gigantic companies in industries ranging from technology to real estate.

The question of the democratic island of Taiwan – which claims to be sovereign but which Beijing claims as its own territory – could also be on the meeting’s agenda.

Regardless of next week’s meeting, Xi’s undisputed authority is not in question, according to Carl Minzner, senior researcher in Chinese studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

“The central problem is: how far could he go higher?” he told AFP.

“The tone and content of the resolution will likely give an idea of ​​how Xi seeks to be represented,” he said.

“As the equal of Mao and Deng?” Or just Mao alone?

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