As the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approaches, speculation about possible changes in the Politburo Standing Committee and about who will accompany Xi Jinping, if he achieves his third term in office, worries the entire leadership of the Chinese regime.
Apparently, Hu Chunhua, the current vice premier, wants to become China’s next prime minister, after Li Keqiang, premier, announced last March, at the closing of the National People’s Congress, that this would be his “last year as premier.”
However, Li’s decision could change, as he has made several public appearances in recent months that seem to prove otherwise.
Following the Shenzhen Economic Symposium and Li’s Beidaihe meeting, Hu also began attending various meetings.
In his speeches, Hu highlighted the urgent problems that the CCP needs to solve. He said it is necessary to effectively stabilize and expand the employment of graduates.
Hu also stated that there are no new investments in China.
It is “necessary to make great efforts to attract new foreign investment,” Hu said.
He emphasized the need to implement new supply chains and “strengthen the confidence of foreign-funded enterprises with practical actions,” according to a Ministry of Commerce statement.
This speech was seen as a criticism of Xi Jinping and prompted several economists to talk about the economic crisis threatening China as well as the serious challenges it faces, the real estate crisis, the Zero Covid policy and the decline in external demand and low domestic consumption.
“The problem in China is that “they’re not writing checks,” said Ker Gibbs, a University of San Francisco executive and former director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. “There’s a lot of doubt now,” he added, said Morgan Stanley’s chief China economist.
Stress tests show that if the power of policy cannot turn the tide, the Chinese economy may be on the verge of a quasi-recession in the second half of this year and next year, Morgan Stanley’s chief China economist said.
What will happen after the 20th CCP Congress?
Wang Dura, a political analyst, pointed out that if Hu becomes premier, it means that Xi did not establish total control, as he would have a member of the enemy faction by his side.
Lu Nan, an independent analyst living in the United States, suggests that Li Keqiang will not change his mind about resigning and he will not remain as a member of the Standing Committee, nor will he be the chairman of the National People’s Congress.
Christopher Johnson, executive director of China Strategic Group and former CIA political analyst in China, mentioned that Li’s decision on whether to leave or stay is in Xi’s hands.
“Does Xi see it as some kind of problem, threat, or challenge? If not, I don’t think so, why not stay in another position?” said Johnson.
Hu’s track record positions him as favorite
Hu, who is currently one of the four vice-chairmen of the Politburo, has a good reputation for having led the Communist Youth League efficiently and pragmatically for a long time.
He served as CCP secretary in Inner Mongolia, Guangdong province, and Tibet. This is another reason why he is considered a strong candidate for an even higher rise in the Party ranks.
Some even see him as premier, succeeding Li. But Xi has been wary of his power since Hu was elected leader of the Communist Youth League in 2012.
If Hu succeeds in becoming a member of the Standing Committee of the elite Politburo, he could be seen as a possible successor to Xi Jinping for the 25th CCP Congress.
Although the vice premier has made several public appearances recently, he generally does not give interviews to the media, nor does he give opinions. For example, during the 2012 National People’s Congress, Hu answered only four of the 20 questions asked by journalists.
He has also refused to comment on his personal ambitions. After Bo Xilai’s dismissal in April 2012, the official was heavily promoted due to his loyalty to Central Party officials led by Hu Jintao.
Hu now has the chance to become the second most powerful man in China, even after two major scandals in his political career: the distribution of tainted milk; and the controversial protests in Mongolia, which according to reports from some CCP officials, cost him the job. Will he succeed?