BEIJING (AP) — The overarching theme of China’s ongoing Communist Party National Congress is continuity, not change.
Week-long session that opens on Sundayis expected to reappoint Xi Jinping as leader, reaffirming his commitment to his policies over the next five years and possibly further enhancing his status as one of the most powerful leaders in modern Chinese history.
Take a look at what’s happened so far, and what’s to come:
the same tomorrow
This is not an inflection point for the party. This happened 10 years ago when it appointed Xi Jinping as its leader, although it was not obvious at the time.
Since then, Xi Jinping has repositioned China both domestically and internationally. The military has claimed sovereignty over the disputed territory, while diplomats have grown more confident, saying China will not be bullied by the United States and other countries.
Xi Jinping tightens state control over economy and society, expands censorship and arrests to stifle dissent. Unprecedented anti-corruption campaign Hundreds of senior officials have been ousted, including some potential political opponents.
All of this is here to stay — that was the message of a one-hour, 45-minute long party report delivered by Xi at the opening ceremony on Sunday.
Lin Willie, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation think tank, pointed out that the report describes a “Chinese-style modernization” that must conform to socialist values.
“China will stick to its own path,” said Hong Kong-based Lam. “It will not draw on any foreign measures or governance.”
no gross domestic product
China on Monday abruptly withdrew its third-quarter economic growth figures released on Tuesday.
No specific reason was given. The GDP report showed the economy grew by just 3% in the most recent quarter, half the official target of 5.5%, which is likely to conflict with the assertive tone of the party congress.
The economy is in trouble Under the impact of strict COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Xi Jinping government, a sharp slowdown in real estate and the war in Ukraine.
A woman who answered the phone at the NBS press office said only that the delay was due to “work arrangements”.
Xi has swept away rivals and consolidated power. The question is whether he’ll get more power — and how.
In effect, he has put himself in charge of the military, foreign policy, economics and most other matters through a series of party working groups he leads.
Symbolically, his ideology, known as Xi Jinping Thought, was included in the last party congress in 2017.
Another constitutional amendment is on the agenda for this week’s convention. No details were given, but analysts said it could further boost his standing in the party.
As is customary, the party unveils its top leadership for the next five years the day after the congress, with the small group of Politburo Standing Committee members being identified for the first time as they march on stage.
Xi Jinping is widely expected to be at the top for a third five-year term. That would waive an unwritten agreement for party leaders to step down after two terms.
Others appointed to the standing committee, which currently has seven members, could provide clues to Xi’s future and policy direction.
He is expected to stack the committee with loyalists. Analysts wondered whether China’s economic downturn would force him to temper his enthusiasm for the state-owned economy and bring in supporters of a more market-oriented approach.
There was no apparent successor to the current standing committee in 2017, suggesting Xi is considering a third term. Doing it again means he plans to stay longer.
wait for the weekend
With most of this week’s meetings behind closed doors, it won’t all be known until the weekend. Any amendments to the constitution are usually announced at the closing meeting on Saturday, and the new leadership will march on Sunday.
Zero COVID Blues
Many Chinese are tired of pandemic restrictions disrupted their lives and economies. The more immediate question for them is whether there will be easing after the party congress.
The answers may not be immediate, and when changes do come, they are likely to be gradual.
The Communist Party is always eager to portray the country in a positive light during the convention and avoid any social chaos – the major outbreak of COVID-19 is one of them.
But party officials are expected to remain cautious about opening up even after the convention, amid uncertainty over how far COVID-19 will spread once travel and other restrictions are eased.
Plus, there’s always another major event to worry about. As a follow-up to the party congress, China’s legislature will meet next year, possibly in March. Many Chinese are getting ready to squat down at least until then.
Associated Press writers Joe McDonald in Beijing and Kanis Leung in Hong Kong contributed to this story.