Chinese Communist Party Wraps Up National Congress, Reaffirms Xi’s Dominance

CCP’s new leadership filled with Xi loyalists . . . 

All eyes were on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress in Beijing this past weekend when the CCP revealed its new leadership and mysteriously escorted out Hu Jintao, President Xi Jinping’s predecessor as Party chief. The newly-selected Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), a seven-member group occupying the CCP’s highest echelons of power, comprises four new and three renewed members, including Xi Jinping, who officially entered his third term as CCP General Secretary. Xi has close ties with all of the other PSC members, who make up his informal clique. With Xi’s power consolidation, the Youth League faction – an historically influential group of younger, pro-market reform politicians connected to the Communist Youth League – has lost its influence among the CCP’s core leadership. Another notable feature regarding the new 25-member Politburo: party cadres with ‘STEM’ backgrounds rose in the ranks. Elevating these kinds of technocrats seems to reaffirm Xi’s goal of making China “the main science centre and innovation high-ground of the world.”

Delayed economic figures signal marginal growth, uncertainty . . .

On October 24, China‘s National Bureau of Statistics released third-quarter economic indicators following a six-day delay. China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.9 per cent year-over-year between July and September 2022, beating most predictions. However, this economic rebound – from nearly no growth in the previous quarter – is "shaky" and imbalanced. Most of the growth was driven by industrial production and fixed-asset investments. Uncertainties from unwavering COVID-19 controls will continue to drive down domestic consumption and sour market expectations abroad as China works towards its out-of-reach annual GDP growth goal of around 5.5 per cent.

New faces, but old-fashioned?

While the CCP’s leadership shuffle brought some new names to the inner circle of China’s decision-making bodies, it’s unclear if anything will change on the policy front. The new group will need to balance political priorities while delivering satisfactory economic results. For instance, Li Qiang, ranked No. 2 among the PSC members and widely expected to become the next premier, has a track record of governing economically-dynamic regions in the Yangtze River Delta. But Li also implemented ironclad COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai earlier in 2022. More details about how the CCP will proceed over the next five years will come from a key economic planning meeting in December and the assignment of new government roles in March 2023.