Mr Xi was always set to consolidate his status at the upcoming five-yearly CCP national congress, but we were sceptical about rumours that he would overturn some of the norms that have governed such transitions in the recent past. 68 years old at the time of a congress. It had been assumed that the process of transferring power bitcoin economist 2013 tx68 begin at this year’s congress, with Mr Sun and Mr Hu moving onto the PSC as “successors-in-training” to Mr Xi and the premier, Li Keqiang. This would have mirrored the way in which Mr Xi and Mr Li were themselves promoted to the PSC in 2007, serving respectively as vice-president and executive vice-premier, before taking on the top leadership roles in 2012.
Mr Sun’s removal has upset that narrative and also raises questions about Mr Hu’s prospects. Neither Mr Sun nor Mr Hu has close factional ties to Mr Xi. Given this context, Mr Xi’s desire to upset assumed succession plans is not surprising. Since coming into power, he has made clear his ambition to remodel the CCP into what he perceives as a more effective governing outfit, deploying an anti-corruption drive to ruthless effect.
He has also talked in grandiose terms of delivering the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. We now see two plausible scenarios for the CCP congress, both of which are more radical than our previous core assumption. One involves Mr Xi declining to name a successor to the PSC, while the other involves him elevating an ally from the lower party ranks as heir-designate. We think that the former—and more radical—option is the more likely. The less radical option would be for Mr Xi to helicopter into the PSC a younger ally that he would be content to cede power to in 2022. Mr Sun’s successor in Chongqing, Chen Min’er, is the main option.
Problematically for Mr Xi, Mr Chen is a relatively obscure figure, without a strong family or factional background. A promotion to the PSC and a central leadership position would also mean that Mr Chen would have served only three months in Chongqing, assuming that the party congress is held in October—an unusually brief period. Given these limitations, the more radical scenario of Mr Xi declining to name a successor appears more plausible. This would provide a powerful signal of his intention to stay in power, with an heir-designate not emerging until the 2022 congress before taking over five years later.