What Does Xi’s Lingering Role as President Mean for China?

China’s congress has revealed the ruling Communist Party’s leadership with no successor to President Xi Jinping — effectively consolidating his power until 2022. On Tuesday, the party also voted to include Xi’s name and “Xi Jinping Thought” into the Constitution, which may ensure his legacy lives on even after he steps down.

China named the faces of the  the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful body which is responsible for deciding on major policy matters.

Other than Xi, Premier Li Keqiang is the only member to retain his position. And most of the members are in their 60s, suggesting they are likely to retire at the end of their terms. This also raises questions about Xi’s role in the future.

During his speech to Congress — which was closed to Western media organizations including the Financial Times — Xi laid out a framework for the next 30 years. He discussed a socialist model for “a new option for other countries and nations.”

Some analysts suggest China is on a mission to rival the U.S. in exporting its own values and interests abroad. In fact, expanding Chinese interests overseas has been one of Xi’s main objectives in the past five years.

But while he spreads influence abroad, he seems to be spreading fear at home. His presidency has been marked by increased authoritarianism, censorship and one of the biggest anti-corruption crackdown on political opponents seen in the country’s history.

And despite the urge to enlarge China’s footprint on the world stage, he will have to struggle with enemies abroad.

Some main points in Xi Jinping Thought include “absolute authority of the party over the people’s army.” Recently, China has been expanding its military footprint by opening a base in Djibouti and militarizing the South China Sea, where it is involved in serious territorial disputes with its neighbors.  

Another point was an emphasis on the “One Country Two Systems” ideology. This is a nod to eventual reunification with Hong Kong, where massive opposition to Chinese rule exists.

Xi will also have to deal with the looming North Korea issue. Despite recent developments with United States President Trump over increasing pressure on the nuclear armed state, Chinese state-run media recently warned the U.S. to lower its tone on the North Korean issue.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.