China opens meeting expected to give Xi Jinping 5 more years

The Associated Press
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China’s ruling Communist Party held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Sunday.

BEIJING (AP) — China opened a twice-a-decade Communist Party conference Sunday at the end of which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term, eaking with recent precedent and establishing him as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong.

Xi was delivering a lengthy report at the opening in which he extolled the achievements of the past five years and said the party would strive to meet its modernization goals to achieve what it calls the “rejuvenation” of the nation.

With Xi expected to remain, little change is foreseen in China’s economic and foreign policies, as well as his intolerance of criticism and hardline approach to COVID-19 including quarantines and travel bans.

More than 2,000 of the party’s 96 million members are attending the opening in the hulking Great Hall of the People overlooking Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. The congress is the 20th in the history of the century-old party.

As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the outcome will only be announced after a week of closed-door sessions.

The spokesperson for the congress, Sun Yeli, offered few details Saturday about what changes would be enacted to the party’s charter at the meeting.

The changes will “incorporate major theoretical views and strategic thinking” developed since the last congress five years ago and “meet new requirements for advancing the party’s development and work in the face of new circumstances and new tasks,” said Sun, a deputy head of the party’s Propaganda Department.

Xi, who has been leader for 10 years, has already amassed great power, placing himself in charge of domestic affairs, foreign policy, the military, the economy and most other key matters through party working groups that he leads.

The congress comes as China’s economy is facing major headwinds from a sharp slowdown in the real estate sector and the toll on tourism, shops and manufacturing from COVID-19 quarantines and other restrictions.