Op-Ed: In China, Xi Jinping is getting an unprecedented third term. What should the world expect?
The Chinese Communist Party is in a good-humored mood — at least for the moment.
After an extraordinary election (“stark,” as one reporter put it), Xi has more than enough votes from which to claim the outright majority of seats in the National People’s Congress (NPC)— and he has a much better track record than most political pundits or strategists give him credit for.
The party’s choice for president at the NPC was between Xi Jinping (at 48, the second-oldest member of the Politburo) and Zhou Yongkang (at 70, the oldest member), who was president from 1998 to 2003, when he was toppled by Jiang Zemin.
In the end, however, it was Xi’s choice that made the difference.
Why he may have won the election
As most readers know, the party’s political class long ago concluded that Xi is the best man to lead the Chinese Communist Party into the 21st century.
That was based on Xi’s ability to modernize China on a scale that would cause even the most jaded observer to blanch. But in recent months, and especially in the three to seven years that will now follow, there have been signs of Xi’s inner strength and self-confidence.
In fact, the Communist Party has never suffered a more significant and consequential election.
The first is the sheer number of members of the NPC and lower-level Politburo Standing Committee who voted for Xi.
This is not to diminish the significance of the two main challengers for Xi’s support, Hu Jintao and Wang Qishan. Although they each had their own strengths and weaknesses, Hu seemed to emerge as the candidate most likely to unite the party.
There was also the simple fact that the party was in a much better position than it is today to ensure that the Communist Party can survive the transition to the 21st century.
After all, the party’s own performance, in the 1980s and 1990s, was no better than the American and Soviet Communist Parties. It was not until the end of the 1990s that it managed