Xi Appoints Loyalists, Putting Pressure on Taiwan and US

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Xi Jinping cleaned house when he appointed loyalists to the politburo and top government positions, with greater internal control and more external aggression to be expected, especially for the United States and Taiwan.

The 20th national congress of the CCP, which ended on Oct. 22, resulted in Xi being awarded a third term, cementing his role as the paramount leader of China. Although the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appointments, including Xi’s, will not be official until the next plenary session of parliament in March 2023, a government reshuffle can be inferred by which members, and in which order, accompanied Xi onto the dais at the conclusion of the congress.

World leaders, China analysts, and diplomats will now be faced with a host of new names and personalities making the coming months somewhat unpredictable. Xi remains the same, but his power has expanded to such a degree that he is now a leader with almost no equal in CCP history. While the world has had a decade to observe Xi, his behavior is expected to change with his expanded power, such as being more authoritarian in his control of China and more aggressive toward the world, particularly the United States and Taiwan.

Li Keqiang is out and Shanghai party chief Li Qiang will be the new premier and second-ranking Politburo Standing Committee member. The other top posts will be filled by men who have generally worked for Xi in the past. The most powerful organization, the Politburo Standing Committee, will include anti-corruption watchdog Zhao Leji. Ideology tsar and Xi-loyalist Wang Huning, who is already on the standing committee, was promoted to the fourth-ranking post in the government. Also in the new Standing Committee are Beijing party chief Cai Qi as well as top Xi adviser Ding Xuexiang and Guangdong province chief Li Xi. The last two, Ding and Li, were already politburo members but have been promoted to the standing committee.

Originally, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, a protégé of former leader Hu Jintao, was expected to be promoted to premier, but after failing to be included in Xi’s inner circle, the 24-member Politburo, he was passed over by Li Qiang who has never served as vice premier. Another prominent figure who seems to have suffered a demotion was Wang Yang, the predicted pick for number two. The snub may have resulted from Wang’s association with the China Youth League faction, which Xi sees as a threat. Affiliation with this faction may also have contributed to the decision to replace Li Keqiang, Hu Chunhua, and Lu Hao. The China Youth League was closely associated with former leader Hu Jintao, who was escorted out of the party congress during the closing ceremony.

China’s single female member of the politburo, pandemic adviser Sun Chunlan, has retired, and now all of the top positions are filled entirely by men. With nearly the entire politburo loyal to Xi, there is expected to be less infighting and less resistance to Xi’s policies. This suggests that as paramount leader, Xi will be free to remake China according to his own vision. Xi has already promised that his China would surpass the United States as the top economic and military power and upend the world order to one that is led by the CCP.

Both Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, who were removed from the standing committee, favored economic reforms; however, Xi no longer supports reform. This suggests that China will continue its trend of becoming closed and exerting tighter government control over the economy.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2015. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Xi loyalist Wang Huning is considered a leading authority on the CCP’s aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy. Former foreign minister Wang Yi will now also be a member of the politburo as well as promoted to Director of the General Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, which is China’s top diplomatic spot. He is expected to put this wolf warrior diplomacy into action. In September, Wang Yi threatened the United Nations General Assembly that “any move to obstruct China’s cause of reunification is bound to be crushed by the wheels of history.”

In his opening speech to the congress, Xi stressed security as a primary goal. By his definition, this includes territorial integrity, which spells trouble for Taiwan and for freedom of navigation in waters claimed by the CCP. Xi said that China has the right to use force to take Taiwan. He pledged to “crack down hard on infiltration, sabotage, subversion, and separatist activities by hostile forces.” On Oct. 22nd, the CCP released the full text of the Resolution on Party Constitution Amendment. It now contains the verbiage “resolutely opposing and deterring separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence.’

Although it is a given that Xi is now the top leader, the actual confirmation of his position as head of the government and head of the military will be in March 2023. Xi is expected to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in November at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, though the CCP has refused to confirm Xi’s attendance. If Xi snubs the U.S. leader, this could be an indication of what we should expect in the coming year.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graceffo

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Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., China economic analyst, has spent more than 20 years in Asia, a graduate of Shanghai University of Sport, holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University, currently studies national defense at American Military University. He is the author of “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion.



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