China’s ruling Communist Party will hold its key conclave in November ahead of next year’s Congress which will pave the way for major leadership changes and a possible unprecedented third term for President Xi Jinping.
The 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee will hold its sixth plenary session in Beijing from November 8 to 11, during which a key resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the party’s 100 years of endeavours will be reviewed, an official announcement here said.
This was decided at a meeting of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau presided over by Xi, who is the General Secretary of the party besides heading the military and the Presidency.
The Political Bureau of the party listened to a report on soliciting opinions for drafting the resolution and decided to submit the draft after revisions to the plenary session for deliberation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The sixth plenary session is regarded as significant as it is the biggest party meet ahead of next year’s leadership change.
Politically, it is regarded as a key meeting for Xi, 68, who has emerged as the most powerful leader after party founder Mao Zedong, as he is widely expected to take up an unprecedented third term in office. China’s all top leaders derive their power from the post of the General Secretary of the CPC. Xi’s all predecessors retired following the mandatory rule of two five-year terms.
President Xi is widely regarded to be in power after the end of his second tenure later next year, possibly for life in view of a constitutional amendment in 2018 which removed the two-term limit for the President. He has also been made the “core leader” of the party in 2016, a status enjoyed only by Mao.
According to the agenda unveiled in August for the November 8-11 plenary session, the Political Bureau will present its work report to the plenary session, which will study the issue of comprehensively reviewing major achievements made and the historical experience accumulated during the party’s 100 years of endeavour.
More than 370 full and alternate members of the Central Committee will take part in the plenum. Over the past three decades, the party has usually used the last plenary session to address party affairs, especially on key appointments, ideology and party-building matters.
Observers say that the key issue to be watched is to see if the party continues to follow precedent on its leadership changes, especially the informal retirement age of 68, besides the two terms for its top leadership set by party’s founder Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping.
Along with Xi, Premier Li Keqiang too will be completing his two-term limit in early 2023. Nearly a dozen of the 25 members of the Politburo will be older than 68 in October next year. Since he took over the reins of the CPC in late 2012, Xi had consolidated his grip on power with the high-intensity anti-corruption campaign in which over a million officials, including many top military officials, were punished.
He has also launched several political initiatives, including the realisation of the Chinese dream broadly defined as reclaiming the lost greatness of the nation, making China a moderately prosperous society, elimination of absolute poverty, consolidation of the CPC power over the military and integration of Hong Kong.
In recent weeks, Xi has made a strong pitch for the reunification of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland amidst heightened tensions with the estranged island, saying that the “Taiwan question” will be resolved and peaceful reunification in the best interest of people of both sides.
The Taiwan issue brooks “no external interference”, he said on October 9 in the backdrop of the US and Japan stepping up their backing to the estranged island in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive posture.
Xi’s comments came after China sent a record number of military jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone for four days in a row, in a public show of force.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state – but China views the self-ruled island as a breakaway province. Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification of Taiwan with the mainland.
As he set for his third term, he recently launched a new initiative called “common prosperity for all” Chinese, which is widely reported to be the new policy of redistribution of wealth, ending the era of billionaires in the country.
The new policy shift came as the government has mounted unprecedented crackdowns on Alibaba and other top corporate firms from various sectors within the economy, including technology, online education and real estate to tackle widening income inequality, rising debt levels and slowing consumption.
Xie Maosong, a senior researcher with Tsinghua University’s National Strategy Institute, said: “this plenum will carry lots of symbolic value for Xi in terms of his status in the party’s history as it looks back at the past 100 years, as the party presses ahead with the next centenary goal”.
“Mao (Zedong) was the founder of new China and Deng (Xiaoping) made it affluent. “Xi, who’s overseeing the party at its centenary, will be seen (at the plenum) as the leader who made the party and China strong. It’s important to send the right message to the Chinese people… from the historical perspective,” Xie added.