Xi’s concentration of power in the CCP poses a risk of strategic miscalculations
Xi has started an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the CCP. He has not only consolidated his status within the CCP, secured prospects for indefinite rule but also eliminated his political rivals from key positions in the party.
Xi has appointed officials to the top-ranking positions in the party with disregard to the unwritten rules practiced by former CCP leaders, such as collective decision-making, age limits, and requirements for competence and experience. The main criteria for the appointments were personal relations with Xi and the candidate’s political loyalty. For example, the party’s secretary in Shanghai, Li Qiang, who had proven his loyalty to Xi by implementing the ‘zero COVID-19’ policy in the city, was appointed to the second-highest CCP position for his third term. Other Xi loyalists, such as Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, who had followed Xi’s guidelines and mobilised the country’s diplomatic corps for ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’, or Xi’s comrade Li Xi, who had helped him to implement ‘anticorruption campaigns’ against his political opponents, were also promoted to the top positions in the party. The top echelons of the CCP – the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee – are now entirely dominated by Xi’s inner circle, who have pushed representatives of other CCP factions out of these positions.
Taking into account Xi’s unprecedented political power and tendency to hand out key party posts only to people who are loyal to him, the likelihood of mistakes in strategic political decisions increases. It is likely that fearing accusations of disloyalty, a part of Xi’s entourage will not only abstain from criticising the leader’s initiatives but will also avoid presenting information that goes against the leader’s expectations, for example, about the effect that certain political decisions might have on the country’s economy or China’s preparedness for a military invasion of Taiwan.