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President Xi’s leadership strengthened after “Two Sessions”

Annual sessions of the National People's Assembly and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference end without major announcements, but with Xi's leadership strengthened

Nelson Moura

The Chinese People’s Assembly closed its annual session this week without a speech from President Xi, but with his presence felt.

According to the government work report delivered by Premier Li Qiang, the credit for China’s achievements in 2023 is due to the “solid guidance of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

Of the seven items on the agenda for the meetings, only one concerned legislation. Around 99 per cent of the delegates voted to approve an amendment to the organic law of the State Council, which governs the functioning of the Executive. The body will be obliged to “uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China”, as well as to follow Xi Jinping’s Thought, recognising the authority of the CCP Central Committee.

In 2018, the APN voted to amend the Constitution, adding a clause that strengthened the CCP’s leadership and removing one that stated that the president and vice-president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms”. The latter change paved the way for Xi to take on a third term as President last year.

The annual meeting also ended up with no nominations for positions on the State Council, which have not been officially posted for months. Foreign Minister Qin Gang was abruptly removed from office in July, followed by Defence Minister Li Shangfu months later, also without explanation. Both have not been seen in public and have been replaced in ministries, but not in the State Council.

Li Qiang doesn’t speak to the press

One of the biggest changes at the event turned out not to be the usual press conference with the Prime Minister.

The press conference has taken place virtually uninterrupted since 1988, but this year it was announced that the CCP’s number 2, who is generally responsible for the country’s economic affairs, would not be attending.

The session offered foreign media and the Chinese public a rare opportunity to get first-hand information on the thinking of the CCP’s second-in-command.

The responsibility for speaking to the foreign press ultimately fell mainly to Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who answered more than 20 questions on global issues ranging from Taiwan, Ukraine and Gaza to relations with the United States.

He warned that a conflict between China and the US would have “unimaginable consequences” and that although relations have improved since the meeting between the Chinese President and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, last year, there are still “misperceptions” in Washington about China.

On the other hand, he called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and that China would support Palestine’s “full” membership of the United Nations.

With regard to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Wang said that the partnership with Moscow has advanced and is of a “high level”, but emphasised that the country has an objective and impartial position and that it supports the idea of holding a peace conference between Moscow and Kiev. “The sooner negotiations begin, the sooner peace will come,” said Wang.

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