China’s Communist Party wrapped up its twice-a-decade congress on Saturday, approving amendments to its charter aimed at cementing Xi Jinping’s core status and revealing a new Central Committee missing two key officials lacking close ties to Xi.
The party’s new Central Committee does not include Premier Li Keqiang or Wang Yang, a sign that analysts have said suggests the next Politburo Standing Committee, to be unveiled around noon (0400 GMT) on Sunday, is likely to be stacked with people close to Xi.
Li, who will step down in March as premier, and Wang, who heads the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, are both 67 and therefore eligible under China’s age norms to have served another five years on the powerful seven-member Standing Committee.
Neither is seen to have long-standing ties with Xi, who is likely to bring four new faces onto the Standing Committee, according to analysts and media reports. Current members Wang Huning, 67, and Zhao Leji, 65, who are both perceived to be close to Xi, were both re-elected to the 205-member Central Committee and are expected to be reappointed to the PSC.
Two other PSC members are past retirement age.
Li and Wang – who had been considered by some party-watchers as a candidate to succeed Li as premier – both have ties with the Communist Youth League, a once-influential group that experts say has lost power under Xi.
“Xi Jinping is trying to consolidate the premier position, not just that of the general secretary,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of China studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Also on Saturday, the party approved amendments to its constitution aimed at cementing the core status of Xi and the guiding role of his political thought within the party as it wrapped up its twice-a-decade congress.
The new Central Committee on Sunday will choose the elite Politburo Standing Committee, with Xi, 69, widely expected to secure a third leadership term.
A third five-year leadership term would solidify Xi’s place as China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong, founding leader of the People’s Republic.
Among the amendments to the party constitution, the “Two Establishes” define Xi as the “core” leader of the party and cement his ideas as the guiding principles of China’s future development. The “Two Safeguards” assure Xi’s “core” status within the party and the party’s centralised authority over China.
Voting was conducted by show of hands in the vast Great Hall of the People, where much of the week’s party congress proceedings have taken place behind closed doors.
The congress concluded with a military band playing “The Internationale”.
At its first plenum on Sunday, the party’s new central committee will choose the next Politburo, which is typically 25 people, and its new Standing Committee.
The new leadership will be unveiled when Xi, widely expected to be renewed in China’s top post as party general secretary, walks into a room of journalists at the Great Hall, followed by the other members of the Standing Committee in descending order of rank.
During the closing ceremony, Xi’s immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, who was seated next to him, was escorted from the stage. Hu, 79, had appeared slightly unsteady last Sunday when he was assisted onto the stage for the opening ceremony.