Against the backdrop of a muted growth outlook, unpopular Covid policies, and poor relations with the West, what are the prospects for Xi’s hold on power going into the 20th Party Congress? Can we expect some reshuffle among the top brass, and what policy outcomes are likely?
CHINA SCHOLAR, UK-BASED UNIVERSITY
Rumors about Xi Jinping’s leadership being weakened by zero-Covid policy have been exaggerated. This policy is ambitious and controversial, and makes of Xi an easy target for frustrated citizens – especially from the Chinese diaspora. However, many commentators fail to recognize that at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party it will not only be Xi’s individual leadership at stake. Xi’s thought was enshrined in the Chinese constitution, also thanks to the rock-solid support from the rest of the CCP. A weak Xi means a weak Party. Surely, the Congress will see – as in the past – some turnover among leaders, because many who were born in the 1950s will have to retire. Yet, with the new resolution on age, some senior members – those close to Xi – will remain in power.
AWARD-WINNING EMERGING MARKETS JOURNALIST
Febrile discussions about Xi facing multiple challenges to his third term – or even being toppled – are hugely overdone. Xi isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he has spent much of the last decade preparing for a moment like this. Xi has reshaped the one-party system, redistributing power so that no faction has supremacy. He has enshrined his own political ideology, ‘New Era’ and ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, to remold party thinking, uplifting his personal gravitas in the process. In short, his words are the party line. That said, his policies are under fire. An early indicator of any challenge will be the rehabilitation (or not) of Li Keqiang and appointments to various top Ministry jobs. That may result in changes to Covid policy, relief for the property sector or shamed entrepreneurs. Xi may be down but not out.
CHINA-FOCUSED SENIOR FELLOW, OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
Despite unpopular zero-Covid policies which are likely to lead to lower-than-expected GDP growth, a major reshuffle is unlikely to happen. Xi is well positioned and with no clear successor, with Li Keqiang being the only lasting politician. There is no one in the Politburo who has created enough allies and power to sustain them. In other words, Xi’s next term in power is guaranteed not by his good policy work, but by the strong power net he has built and the lack of viable alternatives. The strained relationship with the West is not likely to be a factor influencing domestic policy at this stage.