Xi Jinping was re-elected General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party at its 20th Congress. The leader becomes the first leader to stay in power for more than two terms since Mao. Xi also gained more power to implement his policies in the same party congress where images of former President Hu Hintao being escorted out of the room went viral around the world.
The last time a leader wielded as much power as Xi was when Mao was in power. The party's general secretary was also named chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, the second most important position in the country. After his proclamation, he presented several changes to the organization chart that reinforce his already unquestionable leadership. Cai Xia, former teacher at the Central Party School, expelled in 2020 for criticizing Xi, analyzes the situation for The Washington Post: "There is no bottom line. All the rules have been broken. Before there was still resistance, but this time you can see that the future of China is entirely driven by his will."
"All the rules have been broken"
One of the big beneficiaries of the changes is Li Qiang (63), head of the party in Shanghai. His election into Congress as the new number two suggests that he will be confirmed as prime minister in the next legislative sessions. As head of Shanghai, Qiang kept the population under radical confinement for two months following Xi's Zero Covid policy. With this appointment, the president "is sending a signal that if you want to move up, it's not about popularity among the people. It's about loyalty to me," said Yang Zhang, an assistant professor at American University's School of International Service.
Undoubtedly, the other major protagonist of the day was Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao. The former president was escorted out of the room before Xi's undaunted gaze even though Jintao was speaking to him. The images created great uncertainty as to whether this was a live purge, since the events took place just as the doors were opened for cameras and immediately after a harsh speech by the current president criticizing his predecessor’s mandate.
Hu Jintao, the former Chinese leader, was unexpectedly escorted out of the Communist Party congress without explanation. He appeared to pause to speak to President Xi Jinping before leaving. https://t.co/cVxjhC4DEr pic.twitter.com/0TQ3b7frU9
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 22, 2022
Was Hu Jintao purged or did he feel unwell?
During his speech, Xi condemned "the slide towards weak, hollow and diluted party leadership in practice" that the party experienced during Hu's tenure and carried out an economic and political openness that Xi criticizes. In fact, experts expected Xi to follow the line of his predecessor, but they couldn't have been more wrong given his obsession with the fall of the USSR, which he blames on Gorbachev's betrayal and the weakening of the party.
After a few hours, the official news agency of the communist regime, Xinhua News, posted on social media that the cause of Hu's departure was due to medical reasons. According to the media, Hu had insisted on participating in the closing session of the Congress despite recent health problems. "When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better," the release reads.
When he was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) October 22, 2022