Chinese Communist Party elites rally to support Xi’s rule

Chinese Communist Party elites rally to support Xi’s rule


Chinese President Xi Jinping will open the five-yearly Communist Party Congress on Sunday, where thousands of hand-picked delegates will approve his bid for a historic third term.

If all goes according to plan for Xi, the 69-year-old will be re-elected as the party’s general secretary after the week-long meeting, cementing his position as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

A heavy police presence was deployed around Beijing early Sunday as authorities prepared for the biannual convention scheduled to open at 10am (0200 GMT) in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

A fleet of buses whisked journalists and other attendees to a virtually empty square bordered by fluttering red flags and bathed in autumn sunshine.

From there, attendees went through a series of security checks before entering the Great Hall of the People, where a giant hammer-and-sickle emblem hung above the stage where top leaders will be seated.

“Long live the great, glorious and correct Chinese Communist Party,” blared one of the bright red banners decorating the hall.

The event, attended by 2,296 Communist Party delegates, begins with a speech by Xi, who has been in power since 2012.

His address will include an assessment of his tenure to date and a roadmap for the next five years. It will almost certainly be lengthy, as his 2017 speech lasted three and a half hours.

Congress spokesman Sun Yeli said at a news conference on Saturday that the event would end on Oct. 22.

The main task of the delegates is to support Xi’s unprecedented three-term campaign.

Xi and the other party leaders are likely to be unveiled the day after the congress concludes.

In the highly choreographed, mostly behind-closed-doors conclave, delegates will also choose members of the party’s roughly 200-strong Central Committee, which in turn elects the 25-strong Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee — the country’s highest governing body.

An editorial in the state-run People’s Daily on Sunday said Congress would “plan the goals, mission and important policies for the development of the party and the country for the next five years or even longer.”

– ‘fatigue’ –

One of the central questions will revolve around maintaining the strict zero-Covid strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The policy has tightened social control over Chinese citizens, whose every movement is now computerized, in a country already facing international criticism for human rights abuses.

As state media this week hammered out the notion that it was “irresponsible” to “lie flat” in the face of the virus, zero-Covid has caused widespread trouble and pulled the handbrake on China’s economy.

“It’s quite paradoxical,” said Valarie Tan, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “Xi will come out of Congress really powerful, but the country he’s in charge of is in trouble.”

The country’s near lockdown from the rest of the world and repeated lockdowns have dampened the rate of economic growth, which this year is expected to be China’s weakest in four decades, except for 2020, when the global economy was battered by the rise of the coronavirus.

“You’re seeing fatigue after almost three years without Covid,” Tan said, noting the discontent “seeping to the surface” on social media.

Ahead of Congress, China’s internet censorship removed virtually all references to reports of a rare protest in Beijing that featured banners denouncing Xi and the country’s Covid policies.

Video footage and photos shared on social media on Thursday appeared to show a protester draping two hand-painted banners with slogans criticizing Communist Party policies on the side of a bridge.

– virus bubble –

The congress will be held under a strict zero-Covid policy, which sealed organizers and journalists in a virus-proof bubble two days in advance.

Attendees have been ordered to take daily Covid tests to attend events, some of which will be held via video link rather than in person.

At a hotel in western Beijing, organizers have set up a press center crammed with exhibitions praising Xi, decked out in the Communist Party’s signature red and gold.

Scattered around the venue were tables full of books on Xi’s philosophy and China’s development.

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