China: Ten more years of Xi and no successors

Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady
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As broadly expected, the 19th Congress was a show of force for President Xi, with the CPC affirming his supreme authority, and likely to symbolically adopt “Xi Jinping Thought” or “Xi Jinping Thought on Governance of China” into the Chinese constitution and elevating him to the same level of former Chairman Mao .

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the Communist Party of China –CPC-affirmed Xi Jinping’s tenure for not one, but two more five-year terms, through the 21st CPC National Congress, slated for 2027. Unlike previous Congresses, no successor to President Xi was announced indicating that Xi wanted to continue maintaining a firm control over levers of power. What was also noticeable was that there were no younger members elected to the politburo.

There had been speculation that Mr Xi would elevate his protégé Chen Miner and Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua, both of whom are in their 50s - young enough to be credible successors. But the fact that the new appointees were all in their 60s, and likely to retire at the end of this five-year term, sends a different signal and confirming Mr Xi's long-term intentions.

Unlike previous Congresses, no successor to President Xi was announced indicating that Xi wanted to continue maintaining a firm control over levers of power.

Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady

For China watchers and those in the Gulf expanding their economic relations with China, this brings about a certain sense of stability in Chinese foreign relations compared to the upheavals and uncertainties facing many European countries and even the USA , leaving Middle East countries to adjust to unwelcome changes in policies.

The anointment of the Xi era was preceded with fifteen days of tight choreography with China watchers examining every word and nuance to see who was in and who was out for the coming decade. After the nod to the achievements of Wang Qishan and the CCDI’s high profile anti-corruption drive, the outgoing 18th CPC Central Committee held its Seventh Plenary Session on October 11-14, and the stage was set for the play to unfold.

Like a well rehearsed play this had several acts . Act one will gave final approval to Xi’s Political Report that was submitted to the 19th National Congress of the CPC. Act two was to approve an amendment to the CPC constitution.

Acts three to six were final approval of the recommended candidates to the Politburo membership of the 19th CPC Central Committee.

Item seven was approval of the elite Politburo Standing Committee. And finally, acts 8 and 9 were the conclusion of “the matter of Sun Zhengcai,” the disgraced former Politburo member and Agriculture Minister who was just removed from office in July of 2017.

Unlike many other countries, the Chinese know how to manage a transition process very well.

The full and formal Congress was finally held between October 18 and 24. Tight secrecy was maintained, and nothing was revealed until the end of the Congress, which featured a staggered leadership selection process.

First, a total of 2,287 delegates selected roughly 210 members to the 19th CPC Central Committee plus roughly 180 alternate members. Then the 210 or so members with their full voting rights in the new Central Committee voted for the Politburo, and finally, for the highest body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

Western journalists were excluded, indicating again that President Xi wanted to manage both the internal and external message of these changes. Only a confident leadership could have taken this step and not worry about being branded as being afraid of external media scrutiny.

New era

What was most striking was also the self confident tone adopted by the Chinese leadership that now was the new era of a more assertive Chinese role in the world’s affairs. Breaking the mould on the succession, as with so much else, is part of the Chinese president's New Era, as he has termed it.

In the clash of political civilisations that we are witnessing today, he has put China on the offensive. In his speech to Congress, Xi set out a vision not just for the five years ahead but also for 30, and talked of a socialist model, which provides, "a new option for other countries and nations".

Given the political chaos and failed economic models around the world, with increasing disparity between rich and poor and trade and resource nationalism on the rise, it was no wonder that China seemed to be offering a new way out for many.

For Gulf countries, Mr Xi is already a known partner with close working relations with key Gulf political leaders, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and will be so for many years to come , giving Gulf leadership and the business community one less headache to worry about.

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Dr. Mohamed Ramady is an energy economist and geo political expert on the GCC and former Professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran , Saudi Arabia. His latest book is on ‘Saudi Aramco 2030: Post IPO challenges.'

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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