Chinese Communist Party renews leadership: Who will accompany Xi in power?

By Jesus Centeno

Beijing, Oct 16 (EFE).- The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that began Sunday will renew its leadership and though there are no doubts about the continuity of its leader and the country’s President Xi Jinping, the looks they are set on who will accompany him in the highest spheres of power.

It will approve a new Central Committee – about 300 members – and a new Politburo – about 25 – of which seven or nine people will enter the almighty Permanent Committee, the leadership of the formation, although its composition will not be known until just after the congress.

An ethnic minority delegate leaves after the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, 16 October 2022. EFE/EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO

The advanced age of some of its members and the conflicts between factions could cause changes in the party, which will have to elect a new number two to replace Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who already said in March he would leave office.

Xi, whom critics accuse of putting his political objectives before the economy, will have to decide whether he bets on liberal recipes that reactivate activity, a competition that traditionally falls on the “premier.”

To replace the pragmatic Li, from the Communist Youth League – like the country’s previous President Hu Jintao – the 67-year-old Vice Prime Minister Wang Yang, belonging to that same faction and who would not alter the current status.

Another candidate is Hu Chunhua, 59, a former general secretary of the party in Guangdong province and also a deputy prime minister. If the party bets on a generational renewal, Hu, close to Li but loyal to Xi, could be his natural successor.

But some people closest to Xi would also be in the race, such as Chen Miner, Cai Qi or Li Qiang, called to enter the Standing Committee after in 2017 they only managed to reach the Politburo, the second echelon of power.

Chen, 62, the current general secretary in the southern city of Chongqing, is part of the so-called “New Zhijiang Army” with which politicians who have held provincial positions and are closely associated with Xi are identified.

Also part of this group is Cai Qi, 67, the secretary of the party in the capital, Beijing, and who worked with Xi when he was the party chief in the southeastern province of Zhejiang.

A multiple exposure photo shows Chinese President Xi Jinping during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, 16 October 2022. EFE/EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO

Li Qiang, 63 and general secretary in Shanghai, would have a harder time rising for not having managed to prevent the flood of covid cases in the eastern megalopolis last spring that ended a harsh confinement of almost three months.

But for them to enter the Standing Committee it would be necessary to retire some of its current members. By age, Li Zhanshu (1950) has more ballots, although Wang Huning (1955) and Han Zheng (1954) could also come out.

The continuity of Zhao Leji (1957), secretary for the feared disciplinary commission of the communist regime, is also likely.

Ding Xuexiang (1962), director of the party general office, or Huang Kunming (1956), head of the propaganda apparatus, as well as provincial heads such as Li Xi (1956) and Li Hongzhong ( 1956) also stand a chance to enter the committee.

Chen Quanguo (1955), the controversial former head of the party in the province of Xinjiang is also being talked about – a promotion would mean rewarding the party’s toughest line – or his successor in office, Ma Xingrui ( 1959).