President Xi Jinping on Wednesday announced that the 20th Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) will be held in the 2nd half of this year — a high-profile party event during which he is widely expected to be conferred an unprecedented third term. The 20th National Congress of the CPC will be held in the second half of this year to draw China’s development blueprint in the next stage, Xi said, while addressing the BRICS Business Forum via video link, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi who turned 69 on June 15, is widely expected to continue in power for the rare third term, perhaps for life, defying the 68-year retirement age rule followed by his predecessors. The official retirement age for Chinese leaders is 68 or two five-year tenures at the helm.
His number two leader, Premier Li Keqiang, who will turn 67 on July 1, has already announced retirement after completing his 10-year tenure this year. Described as the core leader of the party like the party founded by Mao Zedong, Xi, heading the CPC, the powerful military and the Presidency is widely expected to get endorsed by the key once-in-a-five-year-Congress.
The CPC Party Congress was due to be held in October, but based on Xi’s announcement on Wednesday, it is expected to take place any time soon. Xi’s third term was regarded as a foregone conclusion after China’s national legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) removed the two-term limit for President through a key constitutional amendment in 2018.
Since then, he was widely expected to remain in power for life as the party has already made him a core leader like Mao who had remained the head of the party and the country till his death in 1976. His predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, retired after two five-year terms.
Since he took over the party leadership towards the end of 2012, Xi quickly consolidated his power with his massive anti-corruption campaign in which over a million officials, including the powerful military and party officials, were punished. His core leader status also ended the collective leadership principle advocated by Deng Xiaoping, regarded as China’s paramount leader to avert pitfalls of the Mao era one-leader dominance of the party.
As Xi’s second tenure draws to a close, a key meeting of the CPC Plenum last year reinforced his special status with a historic resolution at the party’s Plenum meeting. The high-profile conclave adopted a landmark resolution of CPC’s major achievements in the last 100 years and at the same time, cleared the decks for a record third term for Xi in 2022.
Xi, known as a ‘princeling’ as he was the son of former vice-premier Xi Zhongxun who was persecuted by Mao for his liberal views, rose through the ranks steadily, becoming Vice- President under the previous President Hu Jintao. While Xi had the image of a sedate leader in his previous postings, he transformed himself into the most ambitious and powerful leader soon after he took over the leadership of the party in 2012, immediately followed by the Presidency and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the two million-strong Chinese military.