The Great Hall Of The ‘Men’
The Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will not be seeing full women members, for the first time in 25 years!
According to the new Politburo roster released on October 23, 2022 (after the 20th National Congress of the CPC held at Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 16-22), Sun Chunlan (the only woman sitting on the previous Politburo) has retired, and the top body of the CPC has appointed no other woman member. Four of the Politburo’s newly-(s)elected seven-member Standing Committee are close to Chinese President Xi Jinping (69), while the other two are his former secretaries. Soon after the names of the new Politburo members were announced, it became evident that President Xi was exercising his power to the full, and used loyalty as yardstick to appoint new members.
President Xi also secured his third term as General Secretary of the CPC on October 23. Alfred Wu Muluan, a Chinese Politics Expert at the National University of Singapore, has explained Xi’s successive moves, stressing: “It is all Xi’s people, signalling he wants to rule even beyond a third term.” For his part, Neil Thomas, a senior China analyst at Eurasia Group, said: “The new Politburo Standing Committee confirms decisively that Xi has consolidated power at the top of the Communist Party to an extent unseen since the Mao era. Xi has installed allies onto all seven seats of the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, allowing him to dominate the political system for the foreseeable future.“
However, the Chinese President gave no explanation for not appointing a single woman member in the Politburo. Even Political Experts are unable to explain whether the decision to keep the Politburo devoid of women is strictly a matter of loyalty, or a conscious move.
Meanwhile, President Xi has also been reappointed head of China’s Central Military Commission. In other words, he shall be in charge of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). With this, he has successfully cemented his position as the most powerful leader since CPC founder Mao Zedong. Delivering a wide-ranging acceptance speech, Xi mentioned China’s rise as a Global Power and its success under his rule, saying: “The world needs China. After more than 40 years of unflagging efforts towards reform and opening up, we have created two miracles – rapid economic development and long-term social stability.“
Li Qiang, the CPC leader from Shanghai who had overseen a gruelling two-month COVID-19 lockdown in the financial capital earlier in 2022, has been named as Number Two in the Standing Committee, meaning he would take over as Prime Minister from Li Keqiang, a former Xi rival who would retire in 2023. Xi’s close aide Ding Xuexiang, Guangdong Party chief Li Xi and Beijing Party boss Cai Qi have also been in the re-jigged lineup.
Analysts were closely watching for whether the Party Charter would be amended during the Congress to enshrine ‘Xi Jinping Thought‘ as a guiding philosophy, a move that would put Xi on a par with Mao. However, that did not take place. Only a resolution called the creed “the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st Century“, stating that it “embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era“.
The most dramatic moment of the seven-day Party Congress was the forcible lead out of Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor as party leader and President, of the closing ceremony. The frail-looking 79-year-old former President of China was reluctant to leave the front row, where he was sitting next to Xi. The Chinese State media reported that Hu had been removed because he was feeling unwell. However, Xi was seen unfazed as Hu was lifted from his chair and escorted out. The incident fuelled frenzied speculation among observers and analysts as to whether there were political factors at play. Later, the Chinese censors scrubbed references to Hu from the internet after he was removed from the Party Congress. Interestingly, Hu Chunhua, one of Hu’s protégés, was tipped by some to be named to the Standing Committee on October 23. However, President Xi sidelined him.
After the Party Congress, Xi is now all but certain to sail through to a third term as the President, due to be formally announced during the Government’s Annual Legislative Sessions in March 2023. It may be noted that Xi had abolished the Presidential Two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to govern China indefinitely.
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