Question 4 of 4 in China Politics
Started Feb 24, 2021 02:00PM UTC   •   Closing Jan 01, 2023 05:59AM UTC

Will Xi Jinping be General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on December 31, 2022?

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Related question. This question is cross-posted on Predictit.

Context. The Chinese Communist Party will elect a new 370-member Central Committee at its next quinquennial National Congress, likely in October or November 2022. Immediately after this Party Congress, the new 20th Central Committee will hold a plenary meeting that selects the Party’s General Secretary for the incoming five-year term.

The General Secretary chairs the Central Committee’s top 25-member Politburo and the Politburo’s elite seven-member Standing Committee. Since the early 1990s, the General Secretary has concurrently served as President of the People’s Republic of China and Chairperson of the Central Military Commission. The General Secretary is thus the “paramount leader” of the three sectors of regime power: the Party, the State, and the People’s Liberation Army.

Xi Jinping became General Secretary after the 18th Party Congress in November 2012 and was reselected for a second term at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017. When Xi began his tenure the expectation both within the Party and among domestic and international observes of China was that he would follow the succession norm set by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin of stepping down as leader after serving two full five-year terms.

But since coming to power, Xi has reversed the Party’s previous trend toward “collective leadership” and become the powerful “core leader” of a far more personalized political set-up. Xi has crippled rival power centers in the Party, elevated close associates to key leadership positions, centralized policymaking authority in “leading small groups” that he chairs, and asserted unparalleled authority over the armed forces and security services. 

These developments have led many observers to argue that Xi will secure a norm-defying third term as General Secretary at the 20th Party Congress. In March 2018, China’s legislature amended the State Constitution to delete a two-term limit for Presidents of the People’s Republic, removing the only formal barrier to Xi serving as paramount leader indefinitely.

Other analysts warn that Xi’s position is more precarious because of the backlash generated by policies that target rival elites, suppress civil society, and potentially slow China’s growth. Xi, who turns 69 years old in 2022, would also have to win exemption from a 20-year-old norm that cadres aged 68 or older are not appointed to a new PBSC term.

Resolution details. This question resolves based on the leadership positions listed on the website of People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. The next General Secretary should be announced in the communique of the First Plenary Meeting of the 20th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, likely in October or November 2022.

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This question was contributed by Neil Thomas and Jordan Schneider.

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