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China's Xi to open 20th Communist Party Congress

China's Xi to open 20th Communist Party Congress

Visitors walk past a screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China on Oct 13, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Florence Lo)

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping is to open the 20th Communist Party Congress on Sunday (Oct 16), a week-long event where he is widely expected to win a third leadership term and cement his place as the country's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.

The gathering of roughly 2,300 delegates from around the country is scheduled to begin at 10am in the vast Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.

The congress will likely open with Xi, 69, reading a lengthy report in a televised speech that reviews the party's achievements of recent years and outlines broad-brush priorities for the next five years.

Analysts generally do not expect any significant change in policy direction.

In his decade in power, Xi has set China on an increasingly authoritarian path that has prioritised security, state control of the economy in the name of "common prosperity", a more assertive diplomacy, a stronger military and intensifying pressure to seize Taiwan.

In particular, China has in recent days repeatedly emphasised its commitment to Xi's zero-COVID strategy, dashing hopes among countless Chinese citizens as well as investors that Beijing might begin exiting anytime soon a policy that has caused widespread frustration and economic damage.

"We see no reason for him to change course or make substantial adjustments to the fundamental principles and strategies he has cultivated over the past decade," Saxo Bank market strategist Redmond Wong wrote in a Friday note.

Xi's power appears undiminished by the tumult of a year that has seen China's economy slow dramatically, dragged down by the COVID policy's frequent lockdowns, a crisis in the property sector and the impact of his 2021 crackdown on the once-freewheeling "platform economy", as well as global headwinds.

China's relations with the West have deteriorated sharply, worsened by Xi's support of Russia's Vladimir Putin.

REVOLUTIONARY'S SON

The son of a Communist Party revolutionary, Xi has reinvigorated a party that had grown deeply corrupt and increasingly irrelevant, expanding its presence across all aspects of China, with Xi officially its "core".

Xi did away with presidential term limits in 2018, clearing the way for him to break with the precedent of recent decades and rule for a third five-year term, or longer.

The twice-a-decade congress is expected to reconfirm Xi as party general secretary, China's most powerful post, as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Xi's presidency is up for renewal in March at the annual session of China's parliament.

The day after the congress ends on Saturday, Xi is expected to introduce his new Politburo Standing Committee, a seven-person leadership team.

It will include the person who will replace Li Keqiang as premier when Li steps down from that post in March after serving the maximum two terms.

Source: Reuters/jo

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