07/22/2022, 12.10
CHINA
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As the 20th Communist Party Congress looms, Xi is increasingly in trouble

Pandemic, economic slowdown and related protests force him to come to terms with Premier Li Keqiang. 'Nationalist' trips to Hong Kong and Xinjiang to hide the problems of the economy. The profile of Xi's allies in the race for promotion is outlined.

 

Beijing (AsiaNews) - An economic crisis and pandemic emergency, both followed by growing street protests: Xi Jinping appears increasingly in trouble, and increasingly obliged to come to terms with the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) internal opposition ahead of its 20th Congress, to be held in the autumn.

The president is seeking an unprecedented third term in power. However, his economic failures, especially over the past year, have revived Premier Li Keqiang, who is now leading day-to-day affairs to foster recovery.

Several analysts note that Xi's speeches, his entourage and regime propaganda, have been stripped of references to his famous slogans, such as 'common prosperity', 'dual internal and external circulation' or economic 'self-sufficiency'.  Sinologist Willy Lam points out in China Brief, that Premier Li is careful not to mention Xi's 'zero-covid' policy when outlining plans to try to save the economy and reach the annual growth target of 5.5%.

Lam writes that in an attempt to get out of athis tight corner and hide the economy's problems, Xi has focused on his two recent visits to Hong Kong and Xinjiang, which have been covered extensively by the state media in an effort to downplay the country's disappointing economic performance. The supreme leader was the protagonist of a veritable 'nationalist' promo in the former British colony, marked in 2019-2020 by large pro-democracy demonstrations, and in the northwestern autonomous region, where Beijing is accused of repressing Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities of the Islamic faith.

Nikkei Asia also frames Xi's recent double visit as a signalling which of his protégés might be on the promotion ramp. Among those who accompanied him, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the head of the National Commission for Minorities Pan Yue, the chairman of the National Commission for Reform and Development He Lifeng, and Ma Xingrui, secretary of the CCP in Xinjiang, have chances to enter the Party Politburo.

Wang Xiaohong, recently appointed Minister of Public Security, and especially Ding Xuexiang, director of the Party's General Office are also in the running for promotion. Ding is a possible candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee, the regime's decision-making body.

However, all of Xi's men will have to reckon with Li's faction (the Communist Youth), which could obtain important positions in a compromise move. More importantly, Lam explains, Xi risks being forced to change policy line, abandoning Maoist centralism for a more pro-market approach.

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