06/10/2022, 12.54
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Xi 'eternal leader'? Communist Party opponents put on the brakes

by Li Qiang

Reference to the president as 'lingxiu', a term until now used only for Mao, is growing in the Chinese media and in official CCP documents.  In order to have a new term in power Xi is reportedly bargaining with Li Keqiang: A return to more "market" policies and space for the premier's faction in the new Politburo.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The state-run Xinhua news agency today extolled "Xiplomacy", President Xi Jinping's diplomatic push for a stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. It is the daily instalment in a major media campaign to create a 'personality cult' ahead of the 20th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress in the autumn.

Many experts observe that recently the regime media has made a habit of giving Xi the title 'lingxiu', a reinforcing form of the term 'leader'. The word leader is also associated with the adjective 'eternal' in a document of the provincial Party branch in Guangxi published in April.

The Chinese president - and CCP general secretary   - is Guangxi's own delegate to the next Party Congress. However, a similar case occurred in early May in Heilongjiang, when the CCP provincial congress swore allegiance to Lingxiu.

Until now in Party practice and tradition, the title of lingxiu had only been accorded to Mao Zedong, remembered as the 'great leader'. The use of the word is almost taboo because it is linked to a possible personality cult, which is strictly forbidden by the CCP statute.

Several observers argue that the reference to Xi as eternal leader or 'leader of the people' signals his attempt to become 'chairman' of the Party, a title Mao retained until his death.

Criticism of Xi's handling of the pandemic, with the imposition of the 'zero-Covid' policy that has strained the national economy, has brought Li Keqiang back into the limelight. With his faction of the Communist Youth, and the support of Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the premier is committed to returning the country's economic management to the path of the free market, loosening the centralism desired by Xi. Li's effort is seen as necessary by the Party nomenclature to avoid serious risks of recession.

Despite the difficult moment, Xi would still remain firmly in power. According to noted sinologist Willy Lam, the current general secretary will secure a historic third term at the helm of the CCP this autumn, with the possibility of a fourth in 2027. The impression, however, is that Xi is bargaining with his rivals in the Party - especially Li - for the green light to extend his tenure.

Lam points out that the compromise concerns both policies and top posts. On the former, Xi would give up greater Party control over key sectors of the economy, such as technology. On the appointments to the Politburo Standing Committee, the regime's decision-making body, the Chinese president should leave room for two members of Li's faction - one of them could be the outgoing premier himself - with the prospect of having Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, another Communist Youth member, at the head of the government.

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