China’s Xi tipped to out­stay term

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AL­READY China’s most pow­er­ful leader in decades, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping will prob­a­bly seek to ex­tend his term to more than 10 years, an­a­lysts say, the first Com­mu­nist Party chief to do so since Deng Xiaop­ing.

The rul­ing party’s lead­ers have re­port­edly gath­ered at their se­cre­tive an­nual Bei­daihe re­treat on the north­ern Chi­nese coast, where dis­cus­sions are ex­pected to fo­cus on the com­po­si­tion of its next allpow­er­ful Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (PSC).

The 19th Party Congress, slated for next year, will de­cide a new PSC lineup, tra­di­tion­ally seen as in­di­cat­ing Mr Xi’s most likely suc­ces­sor af­ter he steps down – due in 2022.

But Mr Xi has thus far de­layed anoint­ing an heir. And while Chi­nese Com­mu­nist lead­ers have of­ten main­tained in­flu­ence af­ter their of­fi­cial re­tire­ment, schol­ars and an­a­lysts in­creas­ingly be­lieve Mr Xi will try to stay in of­fice be­yond his stan­dard term.

“A lot of an­a­lysts now see it as a given” that Mr Xi will seek to stay party gen­eral sec­re­tary, the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful post, said Christo­pher K John­son, a for­mer CIA an­a­lyst and now China spe­cial­ist at the Washington-based Cen­tre for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Willy Lam, ex­pert on pol­i­tics at the Chi­nese Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong, said there was a 60 to 70 per­cent chance that Mr Xi would refuse to give up the role.

Do­ing so would vi­o­late the unofficial rule set by Deng Xiaop­ing, who led China from 1978 to 1989, that gen­eral sec­re­taries stay in of­fice no longer than 10 years. That prin­ci­ple has helped smooth trans­fers of power within the party since the 1990s.

As well as en­sur­ing reg­u­lar re­newal at the top, and op­por­tu­ni­ties for dif­fer­ent Com­mu­nist Party fac­tions to dom­i­nate at dif­fer­ent times, the con­cept also seeks to pre­vent the emer­gence of a despot.

China’s con­sti­tu­tion sets term lim­its for pres­i­dents and min­is­ters, but there is no such rule for the party sec­re­tary.

An­a­lysts say if Mr Xi’s close ally Wang Qis­han, a PSC cadre who is due to re­tire, is al­lowed a sec­ond term it could es­tab­lish a prece­dent for the party chief.

Mr Xi has made his en­dur­ing am­bi­tion clear by in­stalling him­self as chair of most of the pow­er­ful new groups within the party, said Vic­tor Shih, pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego.

Do­ing so “in­creases the thresh­old for any­one to re­place him”, Mr Shih said. “More­over, there is no heir ap­par­ent now.”

Mr Xi has al­ready smashed sev­eral un­writ­ten party rules since as­cend­ing to gen­eral-sec­re­tary in 2012, Mr John­son noted.

His anti-cor­rup­tion drive felled the once hugely pow­er­ful se­cu­rity chief Zhou Yongkang, break­ing the tacit un­der­stand­ing that for­mer top lead­ers were im­mune to such cam­paigns – and giv­ing him an in­cen­tive to stay in power.

More time as pres­i­dent could al­low Mr Xi to fol­low through on long-promised re­forms and bol­ster his more as­sertive for­eign pol­icy in the South China Sea, ex­perts say.

Mr Xi’s al­lies could ar­gue a longer term would let him pur­sue his am­bi­tious tar­gets of na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion and dou­bling 2010 per capita in­come by 2020, in time for the 100th an­niver­sary of the party’s found­ing. –

Photo: EPA

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping shows no signs of want­ing to leave his post.

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