On Sunday the 16th of October, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was set in motion at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. Close to 2,300 party delegates from all across China attended the assembly that takes place once in five years.

With most of the proceedings taking place behind closed doors, the primary aim of the week-long congress is to elect the CPC’s top leadership for the next term. The party will also review last term’s performance and set out policy directions for the next five years.

Despite having completed two full terms in office, current Chinese President Xi Jinping is touted to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term. The highly expected re-appointment is a turning point for China and its effects are to be felt around the world.

Why is the 20th Congress significant?

In 2018, Xi Jinping paved the way for his re-affirmation by discarding the two-term limit, a previously unseen move that broke the norm set in place by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Since the CPC is China’s only party, they yield an enormous amount of power over the country and the leader controls all the strings.

Alongside continuing as party leader, Xi Jinping is also likely to continue as head of the Central Military Commission and as President of the People’s Republic of China; a role likely to be renewed at the National People’s Congress in March next year. The reappointments solidify Xi Jinping’s grip on China and increase his ability to exert influence externally.

Who chooses the party leadership?

2,300 delegates were chosen across 34 provinces to represent all levels of the party. Chosen delegates will appoint 380 members to a Central Committee. 200 members from the Central Committee are bestowed with the responsibility to handpick a 25-member ‘Politburo’ or the principal policymaking committee. They will then select an elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

What were the key takeaways from Xi Jinping’s speech?

The Chinese president first reflected positively on his past decade in office. He then spoke of his vision for the future. From an economic standpoint, his zero COVID policy has hurt the economy and left citizens frustrated. Regardless, he vowed there would be more focus on innovation and investment in technological areas to “achieve greater self-reliance”.

In terms of foreign policy, he is expected to continue his aggressive expansionist policies. Referring to Taiwan, he asserted that China could realise unification “without a doubt”. Rosa, a Taiwanese student at the University of Sussex says, “What I see in Taiwan is that people cannot agree on what direction the country should go in (unification or independence) but I believe China will take action and throw a war to take the (Taiwanese) leadership back”.

Mentioning Hong Kong, Xi Jinping stated that the country is now being governed by “patriots” and has gone from “turbulence” to “order”, referring to the 2019 pro-democracy protests. Analysts maintain that in a bid to solidify his grip over power further, the Chinese General Secretary has put politics above the economy and people’s welfare. “To those who are reading this – if you are from China, think about the news and whether it is trustworthy”, a Hong Kong national studying at Sussex says. 


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