I read the article with much interest:
hile the change is undoubtedly significant, the real decision comes in 2022’s 20th party congress when Xi will need to be reappointed as chair of politburo standing committee and military affairs commission, and party secretary general. However, for some years the party has followed the practice of 7-up 8-down – standing committee members aged 67 and below may be re-elected while those 68 and above may not; if this rule is retained, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang, Wang Huning and Zhao Leji will remain, while three younger members would enter to become the new leaders in 2027. Li Keqiang would presumably be the party and state leader from 2022 to 2027.
If Xi seeks to change the practice, it would be natural that the other two members 68+ in 2022, Li Zhanshu and Han Zheng, would also want to stay, so that there will be no vacancy for younger new members. This is why though the rule is unwritten, there are very practical issues and personal interests behind it so changing is not necessarily easy. We might recall that before the 19th congress there was talk of Wang Qishan remaining a standing committee member despite his age; but it did not happen.
It is possible that the standing committee would be expanded to 9 members, allowing two younger members to be added, who will expect to become President and Prime Minister after 2027. No doubt other possible solutions would be suggested and discussed before a decision is made.
I point out that a parallel case exists here: after Lee Hsien Loong steps down as PM, he could retain his position as PAP secretary general, and oversee significant decisions like appointment of new cadre members, election of central executive committee and selection of parliamentary candidates, instead of remaining in the cabinet as senior minister like Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Political machinery might be well defined, but the way it is applied can be varied.
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