Having punished more than a million Communist Party members for corruption, Chinese President Xi Jinping will use a key meeting that started Monday to drive home the message that his signature anti-graft campaign is far from done and his authority remains undiminished.
The Central Committee plenary gathering also begins preparations for next year’s party congress that will kick off Xi’s second five-year term as head of the ruling party.
At next year’s gathering, Xi is expected to place trusted lieutenants into the party’s top bodies, including the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, five of whose seven current members are, by custom, due to step down. Only Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, with whom he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye, are expected to remain.
This week’s meeting comes as Xi is riding high as China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping led the country in the 1980s and gaining kudos at home for his assertive foreign policy, including the leveraging of China’s political and economic heft to open a rift between the Philippines and its longstanding treaty ally, the United States.
Yet Xi’s domestic challenges are legion, ranging from slowing economic growth to massive layoffs resulting from the closure of steel and coal mines and other heavy industries in an effort to reduce industrial overcapacity. The state sector still is an outsize part of the economy, debt is soaring and the potentially volatile wealth gap continues to broaden.