President Xi tightens his grip on the Party and China 

He consolidates his power at the top of the ruling Communist Party after Beijing’s political bash

China has concluded its week-long annual parliamentary session in Beijing, passing amendments that will consolidate President Xi Jinping’s grip on power.

The National People’s Congress also vowed to adopt several new pieces of legislation that aim to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security interests.

On Monday, China’s rubber-stamp legislative body rolled out revisions to the Organic Law of the State Council. 

They included clauses stipulating that the council uphold the leadership of the ruling Communist Party and safeguard the Central Committee led by Xi.

 Zhao Leji, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said at the closing ceremony: 

Under the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping at its core, we must adhere to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as our guide and unswervingly push forward the Chinese-style modernization.

‘Two Sessions’

The amendments came after the Communist Party canceled Premier Li Qiang’s annual media conference last week, ending a 30-year tradition at the parliamentary gathering or “Two Sessions.”

Analysts told Voice of America that the decision and new legislation are part of the Chinese leadership’s effort to redefine the State Council’s role.

“As Xi tries to strengthen his power, the State Council has been downgraded to an organization focusing on implementing policies,” Liu Dongshu, an expert on Chinese politics at the City University of Hong Kong, told VOA by phone.

He said the move would make the State Council less influential in the Communist Party’s decision-making process and serve as a “big step for Xi” to increase his political role.

“In the past, the premier, who is the head of the State Council, was seen as another big political figure in China, but now, it will no longer be the case,” Liu added.

China faces a difficult balancing act in shoring up the economy. Photo: Xinhua

Since most of the power is now concentrated in Xi under the new political structure, experts believe this will affect the Chinese leadership’s decision-making efficiency.

Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, told VOA by phone:

[The Communist Party’s] decision-making could become slower because everything needs to pass through Xi, but I suppose policy implementation might become faster since once an order gets into the hands of someone at the state council, they don’t have to think about it other than how to implement the order.

As China faces persistent economic headwinds, Beijing’s attempt to further strengthen Xi’s position may hurt the quality of its policies and be counterproductive to boosting foreign investor confidence.

“I can’t imagine a very robust discussion about policymaking [since] Xi [is] such a dominant power,” Liu, of the City University of Hong Kong said. 

“People will feel like China [will] become more untransparent,” he added.

Security laws

In addition to consolidating Xi’s power by adjusting the role of the State Council, the National People’s Congress also pledged to adopt several security-related laws in 2024, which follows a recent trend.

Last week, China’s leading legislator Zhao Leji said that Beijing would enact “emergency management and energy laws” while revising legislation on “National Defense Education and Cybersecurity.”

The announcement came after Beijing adopted revisions to the Law on Guarding State Secrets last month, which broadened the scope of information deemed as “work secrets.” 

Last year, China also revised the anti-espionage legislation, which gives the government more power to punish what it views as threats to national security.

Academics pointed out that the plan to adopt more security-related legislation follows Beijing’s efforts to expand its scope since Xi came to power more than a decade ago.

China is entangled in national security barbed wire. Photo: File / Social Media

It also reflects attempts by lawmakers to cope with the rising economic and social challenges. Dali Yang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Chicago, told VOA in a video interview:

Very soon after Xi became general secretary, he pushed the idea of ‘overall national security,’ [which means that] national security would encompass a full gamut of issues, from politics to social and economic affairs.

He said China has become very “security conscious” due to the economic headwinds and social challenges. 

“This past year, the Communist Party leadership decided to introduce a society work department into the Party’s Central Committee, [which reflects the government’s] increasing effort to be conscious of the challenges facing China’s society and economy,” Yang added.

Chong, of the National University of Singapore, stressed that Beijing’s plan to double down on national security may have a negative reaction to a sluggish economy and a looming demographic crisis. 

Economic tension

“The thing to remember is that securitization is not cost-free,” he told VOA.

“Someone must pay for it, and right now, it seems that the heavy securitization is putting a drain on the Chinese economy and innovation while discouraging investors,” Chong said.

He pointed out that the government’s growing emphasis on national security may also deter Chinese citizens from getting married or having children.

Since the risks facing China will likely persist, Chong emphasized that it was important to observe how tensions between the economy and increased security play out.

“Adjustment has to come from one direction or another if he [Xi] wants to achieve some of his plans because there is a risk that he could be stuck in a situation where he doesn’t fully realize either plan,” he said.

William Yang is a correspondent for Voice of America based in Taiwan.

This article is republished courtesy of Voice of America. Read the original article here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.