May 28, 2023

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The Chinese Communist Party Congress has begun. Xi Jinping will become the most powerful leader since Mao

In Beijing, the congress of the Chinese Communist Party began on Sunday, in which President Xi Jinping should obtain, barring a surprise, the third mandate at the head of the country.

President Xi Jinping firmly defended his drastic policy to fight against COVID-19 in the opening of the congress, according to AFP.

Barring any stunts, this new coronation, which should take place on October 23, the day after the congress ends, will make him the most powerful leader since the regime’s founder, Mao Tse-tung (1949-1976).

The 20th CPC Congress comes “at a critical moment when the entire party and people of all ethnicities are engaged on the road to building a modern socialist country,” Xi said in his opening speech to about 2,300 delegates gathered in the huge Palace of the People, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Arriving at the podium to loud applause, Xi Jinping, 69 years old, began to take stock of the last five years and present his roadmap for the next five, in a speech expected to be a flurry: the one in 2017 lasted three hours and a half.

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He criticized “external forces” meddling in Taiwan, an island that the Chinese regime considers to be its territory. He also said that Hong Kong went “from chaos to governance” after the takeover under strict control by Beijing of the territory where huge pro-democracy protests took place in 2019, writes Agerpres.

But while one of the main questions was about maintaining strict health measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic – the “zero Covid” strategy inseparable from the Chinese president -, Xi said China has privileged human lives above all else.

China “has protected people’s safety and health at a high level and achieved significant positive results by coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development,” he said.

This policy has strengthened social control over Chinese citizens, whose movements are now computer-recorded, in a country already criticized on the international stage for human rights abuses.

The almost complete closure of the country to the rest of the world and repeated lockdowns put an end to the growth that this year would be the weakest in the last four decades, excluding the period of COVID-19.

If the official press insisted this week that any discount in the face of the virus would have been “irresponsible”, the economic cost of this strategy and the popular discontent it arouses are undeniable.

Anger that sometimes goes beyond social networks: this week and despite the increased security measures in the capital, a man hung two banners hostile to the Chinese leader and the zero Covid policy on a bridge in Beijing.

One called on citizens to go on strike and oust the “treacherous dictator Xi Jinping.”

Nothing to disturb the approximately 2,300 delegates, coming from all the provinces and some dressed in their traditional clothes, who will appoint by next Saturday the new Central Committee, a kind of parliament of the party with about 200 members, whose office made up of 25 people represents the decision-making body.

In reality, they will only validate the decisions taken upstream by the various factions of the party: in fact, this is how Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, elected as a compromise between the factions before imposing his rule over the years , especially through a formidable anti-corruption campaign that allowed him to remove his rivals.

A crucial point will be the composition of the future Permanent Committee, this group of seven or nine personalities at the highest peak of power.

Xi would not leave room for a possible successor because “he doesn’t want someone to blow his neck”, believes researcher Jean-Pierre Cabestan, based in Hong Kong and associated with the French think tank Asia Center.

Specialized in Chinese economy and politics, the MacroPolo consultancy expects, moreover, that Xi Jinping will form this committee “with an eye already directed beyond 2027”.

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