Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, October 23, 2022
From the point of view of foreign media consumers, the highlight of Xi Jinping’s staged coronation to an unprecedented third term at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was the awkward and dramatic forced removal from the proceedings of former leader Hu Jintao.
As he was led off stage by two stewards at Saturday’s closing session, the 79-year-old Hu resisted, appeared stunned and briefly exchanged words with the 69-year-old Xi.
The episode was accessible by major international media but not those controlled by the CCP.
What caused this drama is likely less significant than the message sent. As Xi assumes deity status at home, it’s clear he wants the world at large to know there are consequences for crossing him and the emerging superpower he rules.
After all, the courageous Hong Kong students who flooded the streets daily in 2019 have been silenced. And President Donald Trump by his own admission was manhandling China’s leader until the unleashing of the “China” virus on the world. As for the international press corps, they already know better than to charge China’s new Mao-like leader with genocide and biowarfare.
Related: Xi hails Hong Kong victory at mainly closed CCP ‘congress’; Public protests suppressed, October 17, 2022
Hu reportedly also put his hand on a sheet of paper placed on Xi’s folder. But Xi quickly put his hand on the sheet. A distressed Hu appeared to resist leaving, turning back to his seat at one point. After exchanging words with Xi, Hu patted Premier Li Keqiang, seated to Xi’s right, on the shoulder.
Following Saturday’s drama, Xi was set to unveil his new inner circle on Sunday. Li Keqiang is one of the Key names that will be missing from that list, as will senior official Wang Yang, who had been seen as the communist country’s potential number two.
Nearly 2,300 mask-wearing party delegates approved a policy road map for the next five years. Only the front row of top party elites were mask-free.
The delegates rubber-stamped the decision by the Politburo Standing Committee that Xi will carry on as China’s leader for another five years after a decade in power, while Foreign Minister Wang Yi also made the cut. Others dropped from a list of 205 voting members included trusted Xi aide Li Zhanshu and top economic adviser Liu He.
“Analysts have said Xi is almost certain to surround himself with loyalists as he consolidates power and moves to crush the factionalism and infighting that marked the tenures of former leaders Hu and Jiang Zemin,” Nikkei Asia reported.
Also on Saturday, CCP cadres adopted changes to the party constitution that are expected to “grant Xi a new political title to put him on par with Mao, and also give a formal nod to his political writings,” the report added.
“These amendments will be an important signal of Xi’s power,” said the U.S.-based risk advisory Eurasia Group. “Xi’s eponymous ideology is also likely to be further enshrined, indicating his unchallenged power.”
In the U.S., Florida Republican Rep. Michael Waltz, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said Xi has “become the most powerful Chinese dictator” since Mao, the communist dictator who founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) party and ruled until his death in 1976.
“He has stacked to the organs of power in China with his loyalists. He has centralized power with himself. He has eliminated term limits,” Waltz told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” host Mario Bartiromo. “He is dictator for life now, all with a major step towards what he sees as his legacy.”
“He’s told his military to rapidly modernize, to prepare for war by 2027. Their navy is larger than ours. Their space force is launching more than we are,” Waltz added. “And he’s told his economy to become self-sufficient, both technologically and from a manufacturing standpoint, so that they can resist any type of outside pressure.”
As for Hu, Chinese propaganda outlet Xinhua insisted that he was “not feeling well” and needed to “recuperate” when he was escorted out of Saturday’s session.
Foreign Policy‘s James Palmer observed that Hu is nearly the last of his cohort in the CCP, as Xi’s routine purges of those he does not consider loyalists have imprisoned or otherwise silenced nearly all of Hu’s allies.
“Many of his former allies have been arrested in Xi’s purges, most notably his chief aide Ling Jihua in 2015,” Palmer wrote. “Hu was associated with a power network of former leaders, like himself, of the Communist Youth League; that faction appears to have been effectively destroyed.”
Palmer speculated that a variety of other possibilities could have resulted in the strange incident – from Hu indeed suffering a health incident or a dementia-fueled episode to the chance that “information suddenly came up that made Xi — who would have had to personally approve any such move — afraid that Hu might abstain or even vote against him in the rounds of otherwise unanimous voting that finished off the Party Congress.”
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) October 22, 2022