Xi Jinping Expected to Break Precedent at Chinese National Congress


Zhai Jianlan/Xinhua/Getty Images

Xi meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in September 2022.

Morgan Gelfand, Contributor

This Sunday, October 16, 2022, the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will meet in Beijing to elect the party’s top leaders for the next five-year term.

Xi Jinping, China’s head of state, has been elected to the role of general secretary and head of state for two terms, since 2012. The tradition in the Chinese Communist Party has been for the head of state to complete two terms and then hand off power to a successor. 

However, it has been clear since 2017 when the Chinese legislature removed the two-term limit on presidential rule that Xi does not plan on stepping down this year and will be holding onto power for at least another term. 

Xi Jinping has guided China into a new age of economic power during his ten years leading the Communist Party.

This data visualization shows how, as recently as 1992, China had no centers of industry and GRP (Gross Regional Product) growth was quite stagnant. 

CC: Morgan Gelfand.

Since Xi took power in 2012, however, there has been rapid growth, especially in Guangdong, home to four “Special Economic Zones,” and Jiangsu, where the Grand Canal is located. 

But, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been controversial, with Chinese citizens expressing frustration in many places at the harsh measures enacted as part of the “Zero-COVID” policy. 

Lockdowns, closed borders, and rising youth unemployment due to the Communist Party’s handling of the pandemic has led to stagnant growth, leaving an embarrassing blight on Xi’s economic legacy.

The National Bureau of Statistics of China has not released economic statistics since 2019, showing that the government is not eager to make their data on this issue public. Many see the strict COVID-19 precautionary measures as the beginning of Xi’s power consolidation, which will likely be cemented this weekend. 

However, even with this tightening of control, China faces an uphill battle in the coming years toward its goal of becoming a leading global power by 2050. The government has shown no sign of loosening pandemic restrictions, and Xi’s public support of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has soured relations with the US and Europe. 

Regardless of Xi’s political manoeuvring, only time will tell if China will ever again see the economic growth it experienced in the 2010s.