SHANGHAI — Chinese President Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third term in power on Sunday after the closing of the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress, paving his way to becoming the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
Following the party congress, China released third-quarter economic data after a six-day delay.
The world’s second-largest economy grew 3.9 percent in the third quarter compared with the same time last year, a quickening from the 3.5 percent in the previous quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. For the first three quarters, China’s GDP grew 3 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Retail sales grew 2.5 percent year-over-year in September, lower than August’s 5.4 percent. Consumption grew 3.5 percent year-over-year in the third quarter to 3,2030.5 billion renminbi, or $4.42 trillion. But due to strict COVID-19-related lockdowns, consumption in the first three quarters rose merely 0.7 percent year-over-year.
Despite the quarterly rebound, it remains to be seen if China will achieve its annual GDP growth of around 5.5 percent. In March, Premier Li Keqiang admitted achieving such a goal would not be easy, as China faces challenges from its “dynamic zero-COVID-19” policy, a real estate crisis and an uncertain global economy.
These will be the challenges Xi has to take up in his next five-year term. The unveiling of Xi’s new leadership team, the six-member Politburo Standing Committee, shows that he would be able to tackle these issues with his close allies.
At the closing of the party congress on Sunday, Xi announced his position as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission. He went on to introduce the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee. Second-in-command is Shanghai Communist Party Chief Li Qiang, a longtime Xi ally. Li had extensive experience pushing economic reform in the Yangtze River Delta region and oversaw the Shanghai lockdown snafu. He is expected to succeed Li Keqiang and become China’s premier next March.
Others promoted to the new leadership team, all Xi-loyalists, include Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi.
The 24-member Politburo was also unveiled at Sunday’s press conference. For the first time in 25 years, the second-highest decision-making body in the party won’t see a woman taking up a spot in the lineup and the 25-member committee shrank to 24 members. Sun Chunlan, the only woman on the last Politburo and the country’s COVID-19 czar, retired after two terms.
Xi admitted the new term will face “new challenges and difficulties.” Thus to achieve “the Chinese-style modernization,” the new team should “always maintain clear-headed and be cautious as if preparing for an exam.”
Xi also emphasized that China’s economy will continue to open up to the world, that “China can not develop without the world” and vice versa.
Following the conclusion of the party congress meeting and the GDP data release, the market reacted with notable pessimism. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped more than 4.7 percent in Monday morning trading, while the CSI 300 index, which tracks stocks traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, fell by as much as 1.75 percent on Monday morning.