China’s Future at Stake: Xi Jinping Announces Massive Government Overhaul
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is planning a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s government and party institutions at the upcoming National People’s Congress (NPC), which is set to begin on Sunday. The CCP has already hinted at “far-reaching” changes, including the reorganization of agencies responsible for overseeing finance, technology, and state security. All of these changes have one goal in mind: to strengthen the party’s control.
Since Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping is considered the most influential leader in China, and he was recently appointed as the party secretary and head of the military commission for a third term at the CCP congress in October. In 2018, he abolished the two-term limit, paving the way for him to rule for life, which will be confirmed at this year’s NPC when he secures his third term as president.
While the two-term limit still applies to other officials, Li Keqiang, the current premier, is expected to be replaced by Li Qiang, who was promoted to the number two position of the Standing Committee of the CCP in October. Li Qiang, a trusted confidant of Xi and his former chief of staff, was the party secretary for Shanghai during the city’s arduous two-month lockdown in 2022.
The elevation of a member without prior senior government experience is a clear indication of Xi’s emphasis on loyalty over convention and expertise. He Lifeng, an ally of Xi, is poised to become the vice-premier in charge of economic policy and could potentially serve as the party chief of the People’s Bank of China. It is also rumored that a new party committee will be established to oversee the central bank and other financial institutions, consolidating decision-making power under Xi.
The merging of the party and government under Xi has resulted in a less distinct and less effective government, according to Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute thinktank and author of a book on the CCP. It is speculated that the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security could be removed from the State Council’s portfolio and placed under the purview of a newly created internal affairs committee controlled by the party, which would further strengthen the power of the Central Committee and Xi.
Last week, the CCP and State Council issued a joint opinion on legal education, urging institutions to follow Xi Jinping Thoughts on the rule of law and to resist “western erroneous views” such as constitutional government and the independence of the judiciary. This sentiment aligns with CCP slogans such as the “Two Establishes” and “Two Safeguards,” which establish Xi and his ideology as the “core” of the party. The NPC is expected to formalize this opinion in some way.
The NPC will also consider amendments to the legislative process, including the proposal to allow laws to be passed on an “emergency” basis. However, this provision is a cause for concern among those who value legislative openness and predictability since it lacks a definition of “emergency” and provides complete discretion to the legislature.
In addition to political changes, the NPC will announce the government’s GDP growth target, which analysts predict will be between 5% and 6%, a significant improvement over last year’s 3%. Delegates have also submitted proposals on regional tensions, animal welfare, cyberbullying, and boosting the birth rate, among other issues. These proposals have little chance of progressing without the backing of top leadership.
One proposal by NPC deputy Li Yihu aims to promote “civil exchanges” between China and Taiwan to further Beijing’s push for reunification, while NPC delegate Zhao Dongling proposes providing free education for all children born after 2024 through their last year of university. Other delegates advocate for equal rights for married and unmarried women, and Zhao Wanping suggests designating venues for fireworks to return some freedom to the people in this area.