China’s leader Xi Jinping appears to be laying the foundation for a third term in power as top officials of the all-powerful Communist Party meet this week in Beijing.
The official Xinhua News Agency said president and party general secretary Xi issued a draft resolution on the party’s “major achievements and historical experience” at the Central Committee’s plenary session that opened on Monday.
Scholars say that will mark the party’s third major statement on its 100-year history, shoring up Mr Xi’s status as an equal to founder of the Chinese People’s Republic Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping, who oversaw crucial economic reforms.
China removed term limits on the presidency in 2018, potentially keeping Mr Xi at the apex of power for the rest of his life.
He is expected to be reappointed party leader through a highly opaque process at next year’s full party congress, an event held every five years.
This week’s meeting of the roughly 200 members of the Central Committee is due to last through Thursday, with a communique to be issued following the final session.
Mr Xi has already revealed his thinking through his public pronouncements and the statement on party history is not expected to produce any surprises, said Yang Yang, a professor at the School of Political Science and Public Administration under the China University of Political Science and Law.
The document will essentially summarise China’s emergence from foreign domination, its economic climb and emergence as a world power, Prof Yang said.
“It will emphasise a new era for the governance of the Communist Party under Xi’s leadership and that will lay a foundation for Xi to match Mao and Deng and lay a foundation for Xi to continue to govern for the next term,” the professor said.
The party issued two previous evaluations of its history: in 1945, as it was moving toward seizing power four years later from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, and in 1981 as Deng led an assessment of Mao’s tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
In both cases, the party sought to smooth over schisms and restore unity within its ranks.
A decade after taking over the leadership, Mr Xi faces no apparent rivals within the party and has consolidated power by overseeing a stable economy, an assertive foreign policy, a major upgrading of the military and an ongoing crackdown on corruption that has ensnared both serving and retired high-level officials.
At the same time, religious groups and human rights activists have been harshly repressed, with more than a million members of Muslim minority groups subjected to mass detentions and political indoctrination.
Free speech and opposition politics have also been severely curtailed in the semi-autonomous southern city of Hong Kong and military threats stepped up against self-governing Taiwan.
China says the measures are necessary to safeguard stability and national sovereignty.