At a rubber-stamp parliament that convenes this weekend, Xi Jinping will win a third term as China’s leader, maintaining his unchallengeable position in spite of criticism of his management of Covid and the economy.
After securing another five years in October as the head of the Communist Party (CCP) and the military, the two more important leadership positions in Chinese politics, Xi is almost certain to be reappointed as president.
Since then, Xi, now 69, has had to deal with unforeseen difficulties and criticism of his leadership due to widespread demonstrations against his zero-Covid policy and its subsequent abandonment, which resulted in the deaths of numerous people.
The National People’s Conference (NPC), a meticulously planned event that will also see the introduction of a Xi loyalist, such issues are virtually certainly going to be avoided.
The NPC, which begins on Sunday, is anticipated to last for about 10 days and end with the endorsement of Xi’s presidency by the 3,000 delegates who cast ballots in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
“Public opinion is probably not very good about him — zero-Covid has damaged people’s faith,” said Alfred Muluan Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Yet, Wu noted that Xi continues to hold a “very solid” position at the top of the party, making him almost invincible.
Up until the end of last year, China kept some of the tightest COVID curbs in the world in place, crushing social life and economic progress with a never-ending bombardment of testing requirements, quarantines, and travel restrictions that Xi himself promoted.
In November, public dissatisfaction erupted into the largest public demonstrations in decades, which were followed by the policy’s swift demise and a flurry of infections and fatalities that remained mostly unreported by the authorities.
After three years during which commerce, employment, and even education were forced to comply with the government’s desire to eradicate the virus at all costs, the nation is still just hesitantly emerging from the pandemic.
On the first day of the NPC, the assembled lawmakers will likely set some of China’s weakest economic growth targets in decades, according to analysts consulted by AFP.
The position of Xi, who has filled the party’s top positions with allies and kicked rivals out of last year’s Congress upheaval, is not in any danger, though.
Xi’s confidant and former Shanghai party boss Li Qiang is expected to be named premier.