BEIJING (AP) — The overarching theme emerging from the ongoing Communist Party Congress in China is one of continuity, not change.
the weekly meeting, which opened on Sundayis expected to reappoint Xi Jinping as leader, reaffirm his commitment to his policies for the next five years and potentially increase his status as one of the the most powerful leaders in the modern history of China.
A look at what’s happened so far and what’s to come:
MORE OF THE SAME
This is not an inflection point for the party. That happened 10 years ago when it named Xi as leader, although it wasn’t clear at the time.
Since then, Xi has refocused China both nationally and internationally. The military has claimed disputed territory, while diplomats have become more assertive, saying China will not be bullied by the US and others.
Xi has brought back stronger state control over the economy and extend society, censorship and arrest to suppress disagreement. An unprecedented crackdown on corruption has brought down hundreds of senior officials, including some potential political rivals.
All that remains here was the message of a one-hour and 45-minute party report that Xi delivered at the opening session on Sunday, praising the party’s efforts for what he calls the “rejuvenation” of the nation.
Xi already has competitors wiped out and consolidated power. The question is whether he will gain even more power – and how.
In practice, he has put himself in charge of the military, foreign policy, the economy and most other matters through a series of party working groups he leads.
Symbolically, his ideology, known as Xi Jinping Thought, was enshrined at the party congress at the previous Congress in 2017.
Another constitutional amendment is on the agenda at this week’s congress. No details have been released, but analysts say it could further boost its standing in the party.
THE NEW LEADERS
It is customary for the party to reveal its top leadership for the next five years the day after the congress closes, with the small group appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee being identified for the first time when they parade on stage.
Xi is widely expected to top the table and receive a third five-year term. That would waive an unwritten agreement for party leaders to resign after two terms.
The others appointed to the Standing Committee, which currently has seven members, could provide clues to Xi’s future and the direction of policy.
He is expected to stack the commission with loyalists. Analysts wonder if China’s economic slump will force it to dampen its enthusiasm for a state-run economy and include supporters of a more market-oriented approach.
No obvious successor was elected to the current Standing Committee in 2017, indicating Xi was seeking a third term. If he were to do this again, he would suggest that he plan an even longer stay.
WAIT FOR THE WEEKEND
With most of this week’s sessions behind closed doors, it probably won’t be known until the weekend. Any constitutional amendment would normally be announced during the closing session on Saturday, and the new leaders paraded on Sunday.
ZERO COVID BLUES
For many Chinese, tired of pandemic restrictions that have disrupted lives and the economy, the more immediate question is whether there will be any easing after the party congress.
The answer is probably not instantaneous, and changes when they do occur will most likely be gradual.
The Communist Party is always eager to present the country around Congress in a positive light and avoid societal disruption – and a major COVID-19 outbreak would be one.
But even after Congress, it will remain uncertain how widespread COVID-19 will spread as travel and other restrictions are relaxed, so party officials remain cautious about opening up.
Plus, there’s always another big event to worry about. As a follow-up to the party congress, the Chinese parliament will meet next year, probably in March. Many Chinese are preparing to linger at least until after that.
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