China reaffirms Xi Jinping as Communist party’s core ahead of leadership congress

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China’s top leaders reaffirmed President Xi Jinping’s status as the core of the Communist Party, as they wrapped a final huddle before a key congress expected to hand him a landmark third term.

The Central Committee praised the “unusual and extraordinary accomplishments” made under Xi over the past five years, despite a complex international environment and domestic challenges, in a communique issued Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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Xi’s core status within the party “reflects the common aspiration of the whole party, the whole army and the whole nation, and is of decisive significance to the endeavors of the party and the country,” the report said.

That endorsement of Xi, and emphasis of his position at the party’s core, sets the stage for the Chinese leader to shatter transition norms by staying in office beyond the party’s de facto retirement age of 68 and standard two-term limit at the congress beginning Sunday in Beijing.

The four-day seventh plenum -- as this gathering in China’s five-year political cycle is called -- saw some 360 cadres rubber stamp the landmark policy report Xi will deliver at the start of that twice-a-decade huddle.

The Chinese leader’s opening speech will telegraph key policy priorities for the next five years, providing the most authoritative document on the party’s foreign policy, economic goals and military ambitions.

This week’s meeting also lauded China’s efforts in tackling Covid while maintaining economic stability, even as its strict pandemic curbs have constrained growth in the world’s second largest economy.

A report by the country’s top anti-corruption agency was approved, as well as amendments to the party constitution, potentially clearing a path to further elevate Xi’s doctrine.

On the Ukraine crisis, the party had “properly responded to the risks and challenges,” the report said, without elaborating. China has resisted US calls to condemn President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, although Beijing said earlier this week it was “concerned” about Moscow’s recent missile strikes on civilian targets.

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