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China congress: All eyes on committee for clues to successor


China congress: All eyes on committee for clues to successor

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Media captionXi Jinping asks a tough question about Xi Jinping at party congress

Chinese President Xi Jinping is preparing to reveal the team of top leaders who will serve under him over the course of the next five-year term.

Mr Xi, 64, will on Wednesday announce the line-up of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful politicians.

Chinese leaders have in recent decades included one or more possible heirs, indicating a clear line of succession.

But there is speculation Mr Xi may buck that trend, cementing his own power.

The announcement of the Standing Committee, as well as the 25-member Politburo, comes after the end of the Communist Party congress, China's most important political meeting.

Delegates at the meeting elected the powerful Central Committee, a group with some 200 members which meets twice a year.

What does this mean for China's leader?

The party voted on Tuesday to enshrine Mr Xi's name and ideology into its constitution, elevating him to the same level as the party's founding father, Mao Zedong.

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The unanimous vote to incorporate "Xi Jinping Thought" significantly strengthens Mr Xi's political control of the country, making him essentially unassailable. It is also likely to ensure him continued power and influence long after his eventual retirement.

Elected president in 2012, Mr Xi begins his second five-year term as of this year's congress.

In recent history, Chinese leaders have served 10-year terms, but Mr Xi could continue after 2022 as party chief and head of the military, allowing him to wield influence over the country's leadership beyond the end of his presidency.

Do we know who will be in the final line-up?

Five of the current seven members of the Standing Committee are due to retire, with only Mr Xi and Premier Li Keqiang staying on.

An unconfirmed list of five candidates slated to join the committee, reported by both the South China Morning Post, and New York Times, contains no likely successors to Mr Xi.

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Media captionHow a student counsellor sees the Communist Party Congress

Chongqing's party chief Chen Miner, 57, and Guangdong party chief Hu Chunhua, 54, both of whom are young enough to be credible successors, are not thought to be included.

But political analysts who spoke to the BBC's Chinese service suggested that Mr Hu and Mr Chen could be in the final list.

Sun Zhengcai, a Politburo member once thought of as a possible leadership contender, who was expected to be elevated to the Standing Committee, is reportedly now under investigation for violating party regulations.

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How has Xi changed China?

Mr Xi's has assumed an unprecedented number of positions since coming to power in 2012, including the title of a "core" leader of China.

His first term has been marked by significant development, a push for modernisation and increasing assertiveness on the world stage.

It has also seen growing authoritarianism, censorship and a crackdown on human rights.

He has spearheaded a sweeping anti-corruption campaign which has seen more than a million officials disciplined. It has been seen by some as a massive internal purge of opponents.

What is 'Xi Jinping Thought'?

At first glance, "Xi Jinping Thought" may seem like vague rhetoric, but it describes the communist ideals Mr Xi has continuously espoused throughout his rule.

Its 14 main principles emphasise the Communist Party's role in governing every aspect of the country, and also include:

  • A call for "complete and deep reform" and "new developing ideas"
  • A promise of "harmonious living between man and nature" – this is a call for improved environmental conservation, and could refer to the stated aim to have the bulk of China's energy needs supplied by renewables
  • An emphasis on "absolute authority of the party over the people's army" – which comes amid what analysts call the largest turnover of senior military officials in modern Chinese history
  • An emphasis on the importance of "'one country two systems" and reunification with the motherland – a clear reference to Hong Kong and Taiwan

China's 'new era'

By Carrie Gracie, China editor, Beijing

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Image caption The change to the constitution puts Xi Jinping (left) on par with party founder Mao Zedong (right)

Xi Jinping has always admired Chairman Mao even though his own father was once jailed in one of Mao's purges and Xi himself spent his teenage years living in a cave and working as a farmer.

Fifty years on, he joins his hero in the pages of the party constitution, the unanimous vote of congress delegates a measure of how effective his own party purges have been. He's claimed a new era in the history of Communist China.

Where Mao united the country and Deng Xiaoping made it rich, Xi intends to make it strong.

Having his name in the party bible means none will dare challenge him. His comrades have already started calling him the helmsman of China and saviour of socialism.

But Mao's paranoid one-man rule inflicted terrible mistakes and misery. Back then China was shut off from the world. Now it is the greatest trading power on the globe.

If Xi fails, we're all the poorer. And if he succeeds, his drive for control will reach us all.

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