Xi Jinping to remain in power in China after receiving the third term

  • Xi Jinping will get a new five-year term as general secretary of China’s Communist Party.
  • During his decade in power Xi Jinping has had far-reaching influence at home and abroad.
  • Since Xi came to power there have been notable changes in China from demographics to foreign policy.

Xi Jinping will upend Chinese political traditions cementing his status as one of the world’s most powerful leaders — and take on the US to become the dominant superpower — when members of the country’s ruling Communist Party extend a third term as general secretary at the Party’s 20th National Congress.

The conclave kicks off Oct. 16 and runs for about a week.

Xi, 69, ascended to China’s top job in 2012. During his decade in power he’s had far-reaching influence at home and abroad. He has centralized power and relentlessly cracked down on dissent. He has poured billions into international infrastructure projects and aggressively pursued island construction and militarization in the South China Sea.

What is China’s Communist Party Congress, and what is happening now?

  • Xi is already poised to remain in power for the rest of his life after China’s lawmakers abolished the two term limit on the presidency, a largely ceremonial title. Xi will be reconfirmed as president next March.
  • About 200 top members of the Party will be supported to join the policy-making Central Committee. The Central Committee, in turn, will select 25 people to join the Party’s Politburo, a kind of inner circle of this executive branch. These 25 people will then determine who makes up the Politburo’s standing committee, a group of seven elite Party members headed by Xi, in the general secretary role.
  • Geremie Barmé, an Australian academic, once called Xi the “chairman of everything.”

Here are several ways China has evolved since Xi’s been in charge.

Shanghai, China.

China experienced slower economic growth

When Xi became leader China’s economy was expanding at an annual rate of 7.9%, according to World Bank data. The country’s economic growth rate got smaller every year since, until bottoming out with a 2.2% GDP increase in 2020 (largely due to the coronavirus pandemic). China’s economy grew 8.1% in 2021. Overall, the size of China’s economy in GDP terms has doubled from about $8.5 trillion in 2012 to almost $18 trillion in 2021. The US remains the world’s largest economy – but for how long?

Is China’s military powerful?

Chinese military vehicles drive past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade in Beijing on Sept.  3, 2015.

At $240 billion, China spends more on its military than any other country with the exception of the US, which spent $801 billion in 2021, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates. China opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti, in 2017. At sea, the US has 11 aircraft carriers. China has two.

‘A reckoning is near’: America has a vast military empire. Does it still need it?

American opinion on China shifted

President Barack Obama, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping drink a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 12, 2014.

When Xi took office during President Barack Obama’s second term, Americans’ negative views about China were elevated amid frictions over trade and China’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea, where it has built militarized outposts on small islands claimed by other nations. Relations improved under President Donald Trump as he heaped praise on Xi, then deteriorated over new trade hostilities, China’s human rights record and as COVID-19 spread globally from its suspected origins in a Chinese market. In 2012, 40% of Americans had an unfavorable view of China, according to Pew Research, a Washington policy institute. By 2022, this figure was 82%.

Population growth in China continued to slow, now a trickle

Since 2013, a year into Xi’s mandate, China began the process of ending its one-child policy limiting population growth. Currently, families can have up to three children. A decade later it has all but flatlined, with 2021 seeing a 0.07% growth rate — revealing China’s birth rate is now too low.

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences forecasts that China’s population will soon start decreasing by about 1.1% each year, pushing its 1.4 billion population down to 587 million in 2100. Researchers think the lower population growth rate could mean higher labor costs, suppressing China’s economy.

China’s human rights record: limited space for dissent more limited

USA TODAY and other global media outlets have reported on a trove of secret files and photographs that paint a stark picture of China's detention and internment of the Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

Human Rights Watch reported that the limited space there was to express dissent in China a decade ago had all but disappeared, noting that since Xi came to power “the authorities have decimated Chinese civil society, imprisoned numerous government critics, severely restricted freedom of speech, and deployed mass surveillance technology to monitor and control citizens. Authorities’ cultural persecution , arbitrary detention of a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, and other abuses since 2017 amounting to crimes against humanity.”

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