10/24/2016, 17.22
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Sixth Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party opens

by Wang Zhicheng

The focus is on the issue of "strictly governing the party”. Corruption remains the main concern with economic and political reforms at a standstill. New members prepare to enter the Central Committee. Wang Qishan’s retirement is a question as is Xi’s.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – About nearly 400 top members of the Chinese Communist Party met this morning at the Jinxi Hotel for the start of the Party’s sixth plenum, safe from the public's prying eyes, to discuss the country’s and party’s situation.

The focus is on the issue of "strictly governing the party,” most notably the problem of widespread corruption among party members and the fight against them by President Xi Jinping who is also Party general secretary.

A recent Pew poll confirmed that corrupt officials are China’s top concern, with more than 80 per cent of people polled considering this a major or somewhat major problem for the government.

The campaign Xi launched right after coming to power in 2013 went after both "tigers" and "flies", i.e. top and lowly officials alike, with hundreds of thousands of party members removed and convicted, including governments official and army generals.

Now the Plenum is expected to adopt new rules for Party members’ conduct. However, the anti-corruption drive has blocked every other action.

As a result of fear of getting caught, officials dare not decide because everything they do – dinners, meetings, gifts, expenses, travel, plans – could come under the close scrutiny of discipline inspectors.

Such a fear has taken the wind out of sail of Xi’s reform in the economy and the Party. The latter planned to liberalise the economy, stimulate foreign investment, and review the big state-owned enterprises. Yet, nothing has happened.

Inside the party itself, regulations, personnel selection and functions were supposed to come under review. Instead, the war on corruption has led to the elimination or marginalisation of Xi’s enemies and the promotion of his cronies or former collaborators.

For many observers, including Prof Willy Lam, Xi’s power has become almost absolute, like Mao Zedong’s, so much so that many party members stressed the need for him to be given the “core” leadership role.

At this Plenum, all eyes are on promotions and who joins or leaves the Central Committee and the Politburo.

Some 12 provincial secretaries not members of the Central Committee were invited to attend this plenum, namely the party bosses of Anhui, Yunnan and Tibet, and nine government heads from Shanghai, Tianjin, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hainan, Guizhou and Xinjiang.

All of them are expected to join the inner circle of China’s ruling elite whilst all those guilty of corruption will be expelled.

The future of Wang Qishan (pictured right, with Xi), the powerful head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is also expected to be decided.

Wang, a key ally of President Xi Jinping, will be 69 when the party carries out a major leadership reshuffle late next year and is expected to step down from the Politburo Standing Committee.

Some experts believe however that since Xi has been hard-pressed to find reliable allies, Wang might stay on, and not retire at the informal retirement age of 68. In turn, this might give Xi an opportunity to hold onto power for many mandates, even after 2021, when he too is expected to retire.

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