In October 2017, the CCP held its 19th Party Congress. These events are normally held ever five years and are at least as fully stage managed as any American party’s nominating convention.
In other words, there were not many surprises at this year’s congress.
As expected, the mostly hand-picked delegates confirmed Xi Jinping’s leadership for the next five years and (re)named him to a number of posts and gave him a number of honor:
- He will remain Chair of the CCP and President of the PRC at least until his terms expire in 2022 at which point he will have passed the informal but normally honored retirement age of 67
- H remains head of the Central Military Commission and a number of its sub-units, all of which will be important as the Party seeks to extend Chinese influence around the world
- Xi also will continue to chair key policy making committees under that fall under the supervision of the Standing Committee of the Poitburo. These include all of the key bodies that deal with economic policy and the country’s ongoing anti-corruption efforts
- Xi had also been named “core leader” in 2016, a position he also retained at the Congress
- The Congress also elevated his thoughts and writings to the point that it is now considered to be as important at Mao Zedong Thought
The one thing the Congress did not resolve was the post-Xi succession. As noted earlier, Xi will have passed the party’s retirement age by the time the next Congress is scheduled. Normally, therefore, this Congress would have named an heir apparent or at least placed several younger contenders for the top spot on the Standing Committee whose membership it approved.
To the surprise of some, the new Standing Committee members are all well into their 1960s and thus would not be eligible to succeed Xi. Similarly, all are men with decades of experience in the CCP hierarchy, mostly as associates if Xi’s.
That led many people to speculate that Xi will try to change the rules and stay in office after 2022.
That said, there was little concern that he would turn China into a personal dictatorship, since there is nothing in his personal past or the recent history that suggests either that he would want to do so or that he could take personal control even if he wanted to.