China opens congress expected to give Xi 5 more years

International Desk Published: 16 October 2022, 11:47 AM
China opens congress expected to give Xi 5 more years
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China's ruling Communist Party at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. China on Sunday opens a twice-a-decade party conference at which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term that breaks with recent precedent and establishes himself as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

China opened a twice-a-decade Communist Party conference Sunday at the end of which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term, breaking with recent precedent and establishing him as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong, reports The Associated Press. 

Xi was delivering a lengthy report at the opening in which he extolled the achievements of the past five years and said the party would strive to meet its modernization goals to achieve what it calls the “rejuvenation” of the nation.

“Our future is bright, but we still have a long way to go,” Xi said to the more than 2,000 delegates attending the opening, held in the massive Great Hall of the People that overlooks Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing.

“We must foster a firmer sense of purpose, fortitude and self-belief in the whole party and the Chinese people so that we cannot be swayed by fallacies, deterred by intimidation or cowed by pressure,” he said.

With Xi expected to remain, little change is foreseen in China’s economic and foreign policies, as well as in his intolerance of criticism and hardline approach to COVID-19 including quarantines and travel bans.

Xi defended the pandemic response, saying it “put the people and their lives above all else.”

The weeklong congress, the 20th in the history of the century-old party, comes as the economy is facing major headwinds from a sharp real estate slowdown, the war in Ukraine and the economic toll on tourism, retail and manufacturing from COVID-19 restrictions.

As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the outcome will only be announced next weekend, after days of closed-door sessions.

The congress will likely approve an amendment to its charter that could further elevate Xi’s status as leader.

The spokesperson for the congress, Sun Yeli, offered few details at a news conference Saturday. He said the changes would “meet new requirements for advancing the party’s development and work in the face of new circumstances and new tasks.”

The previous congress in 2017 incorporated Xi’s ideology, known as Xi Jinping Thought, into the party constitution. The ideology is vague but emphasizes reviving the party’s mission as China’s political, economic, social and cultural leader and its central role in achieving national rejuvenation.

Xi, who has been leader for 10 years, has already amassed great power, placing himself in charge of domestic affairs, foreign policy, the military, the economy and most other key matters through party working groups that he leads.

Under his leadership, the country has expanded its global footprint while tightening already strict controls on information and dissent. A rare public protest last week, in which banners attacking Xi and the COVID-19 policy were hung in Beijing, was quickly scrubbed from the internet and any discussion of it quashed.

Xi presented as achievements Chinese policies toward semi-autonomous Hong Kong and self-governing Taiwan that have been harshly criticized by the U.S. and other democracies.

He said that steps taken after major protests in Hong Kong in 2019 had restored order and ensured it is governed by patriots. His government imposed a national security law imposed on the city that has all but eliminated opposition voices and demands for democracy.