Xi, 68, holding China’s all three power centres- general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) the overall high command of the military and the Presidency- will attend the “high-profile Party plenum” of the Party on Monday, a lengthy commentary by state-run Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.
Titled “Xi Jinping, the man who leads the CPC on a new journey”, the commentary said “a landmark document will be tabled at this important meeting — the resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the CPC’s 100 years of endeavours”, it said.
The Plenum is scheduled to be held from November 8 to 11.
Politically, it is regarded as a key meeting for Xi who in the last ten years of his tenure in power has emerged as the most powerful leader after party founder Mao Zedong as he is widely expected to take up an unprecedented third term in office.
All China’s top leaders derive their power from the post of the general secretary of the CPC.
All the predecessors of Xi have retired following the mandatory rule of two five-year terms or completion of 68 years of age.
Xi is widely regarded to be in power after the end of his second tenure later next year, possibly for life in view of a key constitutional amendment in 2018 which removed the two-term limit for the President. He has also been made “core leader” of the party in 2016, a status enjoyed by Mao.
Over 370 full and alternate members of the CPC Central Committee will take part in the Plenum being held in Beijing under tight Covid-19 control measures as the city in the last few weeks has reported several cases of the virus prompting officials to tighten entry and exit controls.
The plenum is being held ahead of next year’s party congress which was expected to appoint a new leadership. Except Xi, most of the officials including Premier Li Keqiang are expected to retire after completing the two terms.
Over the past three decades, the party has usually used the last plenary session to address party affairs, especially on key appointments, ideology and party-building matters.
The key issue to be watched is to see if the party continues to follow precedent on its leadership changes, especially the informal retirement age of 68 besides the two terms for its top leadership set by Party’s founder Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping.
Nearly a dozen of the 25 members of the Politburo will be older than 68 in October next year.
Observers say that the document highlighting the “historical resolution” is used only three times in the 100 years’ history of the party.
The rare party resolution will strengthen Xi’s power but leave China’s leadership succession unclear, noted Chinese political commentator and columnist Wang Xiangwei said.
“The CCP is set to pass a resolution that will provide a further theoretical boost to Xi’s political standing, as a previous one did for Mao”, he wrote in his recent column in the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post newspaper.
“But the document is unlikely to address one of the Chinese leadership’s greatest uncertainties: leadership succession,” he wrote.
In the Chinese Communist Party’s parlance, the words “historic resolution” carry special political significance and implications. Only twice in the party’s 100-year history have the leaders adopted the so-named documents at critical junctures to resolve major issues plaguing the party, altering the course of its history, he said.
The first resolution, issued in 1945 and guided by Mao, marked the party’s break from the heavy Stalinist influences and established Mao’s thought as the guiding principle to lead the party forward.
In 1981, Mao’s successor Deng orchestrated the second resolution to repudiate Mao for launching the “Cultural Revolution”, which resulted in turmoil and catastrophe.
Next week the party leadership under Xi is set to discuss and pass the third such resolution.
“The wording of the document may provide a clear indication about Xi’s authority and standing”, Wang said.
The new resolution will come roughly one year before the party’s 20th Congress, estimated to take place in the autumn of 2022, when Xi is widely expected to seek a third term as party chief, thus breaking the de facto two-term limit.
“As Xi looks set to seek a third term as China’s top leader in 2022, and possibly a fourth term in 2027, it is very unlikely a potential successor will emerge next year”, Wang said.
“Given the party’s opaque politics and the sensitivity of the matter, any historic resolution on China’s leadership succession plan may remain unclear for years to come”, he said.
In its commentary profiling President Xi, Xinhua said, “since being elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012, Xi has been seen as a man of determination and action, a man of profound thoughts and feelings, a man who inherited a legacy but dares to innovate, and a man who has forward-looking vision and is committed to working tirelessly.”
“Under his leadership, China is becoming a powerful country, and is now entering an era of strength. On the new journey, Xi is undoubtedly the core figure in charting the course of history,” it said.