Chinese President Xi Jinping may move towards becoming the chairman of the Communist Party, a title that has not been used for decades after Mao Zedong, amid the intensifying purge of disloyal law and order officials in the ruling party, experts have said.
In July, an anti-corruption campaign was launched to target the party’s legal and domestic security apparatus. This gained momentum in August when the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced a probe into Gong Daoan, the Shanghai police chief and the highest-ranking official to fall since Jinping’s second term began in 2017, said a report by Financial Times.
According to the report, officials have signalled that the campaign must channel the spirit of the “Yan’an rectification movement” launched by Mao in 1941, which is said to be the first big purge in the party’s history.
Mao’s campaign was used to clear out political rivals and consolidate control. It allowed him to be officially appointed party chairman in 1945, as per the report.
The title has not been used since 1987 and the currently intensifying purge is setting the stage for Jinping to take up the post, said the report.
Jinping is currently holding the post of general secretary of the party and head of the military, as well as president. His term as general secretary and head of the military ends in late 2022 and of the President it ends in 2023.
“The latest stage in his multiyear, anti-graft battle could play a similar role in concentrating his considerable power in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress in 2022,” Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based independent political commentator told the publication.
Jinping will get a new title to further emphasise his status above other leaders on the politburo standing committee, added Wu.
The Jinping action on graft had already felled a number of top political rivals, including public security tsar Zhou Yongkang and Chongqing party secretary Sun Zhengcai.
Jinping’s second term as party general secretary and head of the military will officially end in late 2022, while his second five-year stint as president of China is set to end in 2023.
As per the political experts in China Jinping will be in power beyond 2023, said the report.
In 2019, term limits for the presidency were abolished, allowing the president to rule for life should he choose to.
However, it is not clear which roles he will retain and exactly how he will exercise power.
An option is that Jinping keeps control of the party by following Mao to become party chairman.
The title would provide a mechanism to extend Xi’s tenure because there [has been] no term limit set for party chairmanship in the past, Ling Li, a scholar of Chinese politics at the University of Vienna, was quoted as saying.