By Joe McDonald (Associated Press)

BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, extended his dominance Sunday when he broke with tradition and was nominated for another term as head of the ruling Communist Party. and fostered allies who supported his vision of tighter control. Society and the troubled economy.

Xi, who took office in 2012, was awarded a third five-year term as general secretary, reversing the practice that saw his predecessors leave after 10 years. The 69-year-old leader is expected to try to stay in power for life.

The party also named a seven-member Standing Committee, an inner circle of power dominated by allies of the XI, followed by Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader and leader of market-style reforms and private enterprise. supporters, was removed from the leadership on Saturday. This was despite being a year short of the party’s unofficial retirement age of 68.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, an expert on Chinese politics at Hong Kong Baptist University, said power would become more concentrated in Xi Jinping’s hands. He said the new speakers were “loyal to everything”. “There are absolutely no counterweights or checks and balances in the system.”

On Saturday, Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, 79, abruptly walked out of a meeting of the party’s central committee with an aide. That raised questions about whether Xi was relaxing his powers by ousting other leaders. The state-run Xinhua News Agency later reported that Hu was in poor health and needed rest.

Xi and other standing committee members – none of whom are women – appeared as a group for the first time before reporters at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s formal legislature in central Beijing.

The No. 2 leader was Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang. This puts Li Qiang, who is no relation to Li Keqiang, the top economic official, in line to become prime minister. Zhao Lijie, already a member, was promoted to No. 3, likely to head the legislature. These posts will be assigned when the legislature meets next year.

The leadership changes were announced as the party adjourned Congress twice in a decade with a close eye on measures to address the economic crisis or changes to the drastic “zero-COVID” strategy that has left cities shut down and disrupted business. The authorities disappointed investors and the Chinese public by announcing no changes.

The line-up reflects what some commentators call a “Maximum XI”, valuing loyalty over talent. Some of the new leaders lack the national-level experience as deputy prime minister or cabinet minister that is generally seen as a requirement for the position.

Li Qiang’s promotion is clearly affirmative, as it positions him to become prime minister without any background in national government. Li Qiang is seen as close to Xi after working together in the southeastern Zhejiang province in the early 2000s.

Li Keqiang was put in charge of policy-making institutions by Xi Jinping over the past decade. Li Keqiang was dropped on Saturday from the list of the party’s new 205-member Central Committee, from which the Standing Committee is elected.

Another departure from the Standing Committee was Wang Yang, a reform advocate suggested by some as a possible prime minister. Wang, 67, is short of retirement age.

Other new members of the Standing Committee are Beijing Party Secretary Cai Qi and Ding Xuexiang, a career party functionary known as Xi’s “alter ego,” or chief of staff. Former law school dean Wang Huning, who heads the theory, remained on the committee. The No. 7 member is Li Zhi, party secretary of Guangdong province in the southeast, the center of China’s export-oriented manufacturing industry.

There are 11 women on the Central Committee, or 5% of the total. Its 24-member politburo, which has only had four female members since the 1990s, is empty after the departure of Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.

The party’s plans call for building a prosperous society by mid-century and restoring China to its historic role as a political, economic and cultural leader.

These ambitions face challenges from access to Western technology, an aging workforce, and security sanctions related to tensions with Washington, Europe, and Asian neighbors over trade, security, human rights, and regional disputes.

Since taking power in 1949, Xi has called for the “great renewal of the Chinese nation” and the revival of the party’s “original mission” as a social, economic and cultural leader, viewing it as a golden age.

During the congress, Xi emphasized rapid military development, “self-reliance and strength” in technology and the defense of China’s interests abroad, raising the prospect of further conflict.

The party has tightened controls on businesses that create jobs and wealth, prompting warnings that rolling back market-based reforms would hurt economic growth, which slowed to 2.2 percent in the first half of this year. had sunk – less than half of the official 5.5 percent target.

“Clearly, it’s a return to a much more state-controlled type of economy,” Kabistan said. “That means, for private business, they will be on even less leash, there will be party committees everywhere.”

Under a 1950s propaganda slogan, “Shared Prosperity,” Xi is pressuring businessmen to help reduce China’s wealth gap by paying for wage increases and rural job creation, among other initiatives. do

In a report to Congress last week, Xi called for “regulating the mechanism of wealth accumulation,” suggesting that entrepreneurs may face more political pressure, but gave no details. tell me

“If I were a very rich person in China, I would be concerned,” said Natix economist Alicia Garcia Herrero.

In his report, Xi stressed the importance of national security and control over China’s supply of food, energy and industrial goods. He gave no indication of possible changes to the policies that prompted then-President Donald Trump to launch a tariff war with Beijing in 2018 over its technology ambitions.

The party is trying to nurture Chinese creators of renewable energy, electric cars, computer chips, aerospace and other technologies. Its trading partners complain that Beijing unfairly subsidizes and shields its suppliers from competition.

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has maintained the increase in punitive tariffs on Chinese goods and this month increased restrictions on China’s access to U.S. chip technology.

The party has tightened control over private sector leaders, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. Under political pressure, they are pouring billions of dollars into chip development and other party initiatives. Their share prices in foreign exchange have fallen due to uncertainty about their future.

García Herrero and Gary Ng of Natixis said in a report that the party will “step up its industrial policy” to see what Chinese tech suppliers can make and close the “wide gap” between smartphone, computer and other manufacturers. .

Abroad, Chinese efforts to assert leadership will cause “further tension and difficulty,” as “countries are simply not following the Chinese model,” said Steve Tsang, director of the University of London’s China Institute.

After forcing out potential dissidents, “there is no one in Beijing to advise Xi Jinping that this is not the way to go,” Song said.

Xi gave no indication that Beijing would change its “zero-COVID” strategy despite public frustration with repeated city shutdowns that has boiled over into protests in Shanghai and other regions.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, Shiana Yu and Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in a report that Xi Jinping’s priorities of security and self-sufficiency “will drag down China’s productivity growth.” “His determination to stay in power is unlikely to lead to any course correction.”

The central bank governor, Yi Gang, and the bank regulator, Guo Shuqing, were also absent from Saturday’s central committee list, indicating they will retire next year, as expected.

Xi suspended retirement rules to place General Zhang Yuxia, 72, on the Central Committee. This allows Zhang, a veteran of China’s 1979 war with Vietnam, to remain as Xi’s vice chairman on the commission that controls the People’s Liberation Army, the party’s military wing.

Party elites agreed in the 1990s to limit the general secretary to two to five-year terms to avoid a repeat of the power struggles of previous decades. He also becomes the Chairman of the Leader Military Commission and assumes the formal title of President.

Xi has led a crackdown on corruption that has seen the arrest of thousands of officials, including a retired member of the Standing Committee and deputy cabinet ministers. This split party factions and weakened potential challengers.

Xi is on track to become the first leader in a generation to choose a successor, but potential candidates have not yet been identified. Hu Jintao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin were both elected in the 1980s by then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping.

Ahead of the congress, banners criticizing XI and “Zero COVID” were hung above a major thoroughfare in Beijing in an unusual protest. Photos of the event have been deleted from social media. The popular WeChat messaging app shut down accounts that forwarded them.

Xi’s government has also faced criticism for mass detentions and other abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic groups and for jailing government critics.

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AP Video Producer Caroline Chen contributed.