China’s Xi Looks to Strengthen His Hand at Upcoming Communist Party Congress

China’s Xi Looks to Strengthen His Hand at Upcoming Communist Party Congress
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang toast during a reception on the eve of the National Day holiday, Beijing, Sept. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

When China’s top officials convene in Beijing next week for the Communist Party’s 19th Congress, President Xi Jinping could further consolidate his growing political power and advance his agenda. Xi has already dismissed two high-ranking generals, in his latest maneuver to reform the People’s Liberation Army and assert more authority over its ranks. In an email interview, Timothy R. Heath, a senior international defense research analyst at the RAND Corporation specializing in China, explains what further steps Xi will likely make at the Party Congress, what they mean for reform in the Chinese military, and if Xi could face any pushback from within.

WPR: How firmly do you expect President Xi to cement his control over the Communist Party at next week’s Congress in Beijing? Are there any specific moves you anticipate?

Timothy R. Heath: Xi Jinping should oversee the appointment of supporters to positions of power and the removal of individuals he regards as insufficiently supportive of his agenda. At the Party Congress, the Central Committee will likely also confer even more power on Xi by elevating his ideological authority and by possibly bestowing titles signifying his status as the “core” of the leadership. However, it remains unclear how Xi will translate such authority into power to achieve needed economic and governance reforms, such as curbing nonproductive lending, thinning the ranks of uncompetitive state-owned enterprises, and enforcing policies and rules to promote the private sector.

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