Chinese President Xi Jinping shapes to become the most powerful leader in Beijing’s recent history as he heralded the dawn of a “new era” of politics and power at the 19th Communist Party congress.
Mr Xi opened the congress – held only once every five years – on Wednesday by announcing his plan for China to become a leader of national power and global impact by 2050.
But while Mr Xi’s second five-year term as the nation’s President is almost a certainty, experts suggest he could also become China’s party chairman.
The role, which was abolished in 1982, would further increase Mr Xi’s influence and could see him stay in office beyond the 10-year limit in 2023.
University of Technology Sydney modern Chinese history expert Dr Chongyi Feng told The New Daily that Mr Xi’s imprisonment of his political rivals and tightening of control over society and the media in his first term has allowed him to become an “extremely powerful dictator” – centralising all power in himself.
“The consensus is that the leader, Xi Jinping, is going to get all the power and consolidate his power, because in the last five years in his first term he has been very successful in eliminating all the political rivals within the political party as part of his so-called anti-corruption drive,” Dr Feng said.
“This means he will become an extremely powerful dictator, more powerful than Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were in the 20th century.”
If Mr Xi does assume the title of party chairman he would outrank the Politburo Standing Committee – the most powerful decision-making body in China – of which he is currently a member.
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University of Sydney Chinese business professor Hans Hendrischke said Mr Xi had stamped his authority by asserting China’s rise on the domestic and global stage through reform.
“He is consolidating an awful lot of personal power, more than any of his predecessors in the previous decades probably have ever had,” Dr Hendrischke told The New Daily.
“He has been put into this position as someone who has enough power to push an agenda on which there was a broad consensus inside the party and inside the leadership.”
President Xi’s plans for China
In his three-hour address, President Xi announced a two-stage plan for China to become a “great modern socialist country” by the middle of the 21st century.
He also outlined plans to relax market access for foreign investment, alleviate poverty, increase focus on environment and clean energy “to make our skies blue again”, and modernise China’s armed forces to “world class” status by 2050.
He said China would continue its current “one country, two systems” policy to help deliver long-term prosperity.
The Communist Party congress is a hugely influential political summit held twice each decade that includes the selection of future party leadership.
Dr Hendrischke said Mr Xi’s increase in power is not a cause for concern as he is yet to use it for personal gain.
“He is not collecting power for any personal agenda he might have, we don’t see that yet,” he said.
“We say he has increasing power but nobody has been able to say what he is actually doing with that power. Is he using that power for any purpose? Is he starting a cultural revolution like Chairman Mao?
“He has a reform agenda and it’s a gradual reform agenda so there’s no sign of a personal power being used for other ends than largely pursuing this practical agenda.
“He is very much pursuing a collective agenda of strengthening the party in the general interest of the political system as it works, and he has a number of agendas in terms of finance, and government party relations.”