NEW DELHI, India, 27 June 2021
The Communist Party of China (CPC), with President Xi Jinping at the helm of affairs, is gearing up to celebrate its centenary on 1 July. While the 90 million-strong member CPC has gone back to one leader party, especially after the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, experts warn that continuation of Xi after two terms could potentially be “very destabilising” for the party in the future.
In a deviation from normal practice, CPC did not name a successor to the General Secretary during the second tenure of the party leadership, and the Chinese president is expected to remain as their paramount leader during the reshuffle of the party’s governing bodies at the twice-a-decade Party Congress next year.
South China Morning Post said in its report Friday that the twice-a-decade Party Congress next year will shed light on how he plans to tackle succession. According to the Hong Kong-based daily, the succession plan could prove to be Xi’s biggest challenge and will shape the party for decades to come.
Deng Xiaoping, the moderate “paramount leader” of CPC who guided the party till 1997, invented a collective leadership structure that accommodated all groups and sections within the party. But Xi, unlike his predecessors, did not endorse a successor at the end of his first term in 2017 and observers suggest that the emergence of a new leadership line-up next year remains highly unlikely.
Amid global adversity in the wake of a pandemic, Xi’s supporters project his leadership as the need of the hour for the country but, according to Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, that could spell trouble for the party. “When succession finally looms, it can potentially be very destabilising if the structure and/or process is not clear and well defined,” Tsang told the Washington Post.
Nis Gruenberg, a senior analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, told SCMP that though Xi has bought more time to establish his vision of the party-state by abolishing term limits, he has also inserted “enormous uncertainty” into the leadership system, “which…could destabilise the leadership system as soon as Xi…has gone.”
Xi has solidified his own leadership position but potentially pushed the country towards a destabilising succession crisis, according to a joint report by the Centre for Strategic International Studies in the US and the Lowy Institute in Australia. The report, published earlier in April, suggests that China’s political path is shrouded in great uncertainty.
“The global impact of a twenty-first century succession crisis would be immense,” the think-tanks said.