Having grown from strength to strength, Chinese President Xi Jinping could well be eyeing an unprecedented third term in office in 2022 barring the imponderables. In a departure from the past, the Communist Party of China (CPC) at its six-day session held in Beijing recently steered clear of naming a successor to Xi.
Keen watchers of the CPC held once every five years believe Xi’s overarching presence at the Congress left an indelible imprint on the large gathering of more than two thousand delegates. In his opening remarks at the 19th Congress spread over three hours and 23 minutes, he outlined the way forward emphasising Beijing did not seek global hegemony and “no one should expected China to swallow anything that undermines its interests”.
He remained uncompromising about his country’s political model steering clear of offering any hint about democratic reforms being on the horizon. “The political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is a great creation,” Xi maintained. He affirmed it was time for his country to transform itself into a mighty force that could lead the world in political, economic, military and environmental issues. “This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” Xi added.
Having taken over as his country’s leadership at the 2012 Congress of the CPC, he has emerged as the most dominant leader since Mao Zedong. He believes acheiving the China dream will not be a walk in the park as it will “take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there”.
Having seen the back of those posing a threat to his leadership, one wonders if Xi will adhere to the party constitution ruling out a “life tenure” as there is no term limit for any office unlike the state constitution which prescribes a two-term limit or a decade for the office of President.
With Xi just into his second term, it might be premature to fathom at this juncture the post 2022 scenario but it seems unlikely he will abruptly bid adieu to the Presidentship of his country. It may be recalled his predecessor Hu Jintao made his exit after completing two terms as the Chinese President. That the CPC steered clear by not announcing a successor to Xi who completes his first five year term and embarks on his second as Chinese president is significant.
Impartial observers believe Xi might well be eyeing a precedent setting third term as President of China. Amending the constitution becomes necessary if Xi eyes being the President for a third term in 2022. This might not be difficult as he will be overseeing the agenda in the National Peoples’s Congress.
At the same time not having a succession plan has caused factional feuds in the past. Since Xi’s arrival on the global scene five years back in 2012, China has emerged as a power calling the shots much to the chagrin of the United States of America as the lone super power amid the waning of influence of other major powers including the Russian Federation. Beijing’s expansionist designs and its assertions in the South China Sea, could pose a challenge to major powers along with the countries in the East.
The Middle Kingdom is poised to project itself as a major global force. Xi has also given enough indications of taking charge of the new governing system globally. On its part the CPC has sought to provide a template of Beijing occupying a leading position in the global economy.
Its growing clout cannot be undermined considering its investments in the far corners of the globe including Africa, South America and Latin America. It has also taken up the humongous “One Belt One Road” project linking Europe with China. OBOR seeks to link more than 60 nations in the process.
On its part, New Delhi has serious objections to joining OBOR as it passes through the disputed Kashmir territory. Having emerged as the Chinese numero uno, Xi’s reign in office for a third term cannot be dismissed out of hand. There is no doubt his moves will be watched closely.
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator.