Oct 23, 2022

Xi Jinping re elected to record third term Transcript

Xi Jinping re elected to record third term Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsChinaXi Jinping re elected to record third term Transcript

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has formally stepped into his norm-breaking third term ruling China with an iron grip on power, as he revealed a new leadership team stacked with loyal allies. Read the transcript here.

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Leyla (00:00):

The inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party are notoriously secretive and opaque. Rarely do we get a peak behind the veil, and today was one of those historic moments, as expected leader Xi Jinping was named to a third term as General Secretary of the Party, the highest and most powerful office. And it was these six men who walked in behind him, the loyalest of the loyal, whose very presence told the world everything it needed to know about who was in charge and the global consequences could be serious. That’s why governments everywhere, especially Taiwan and its allies, watched this carefully staged event with great interest.

CNN correspondents have been covering China for you for many years, and joining us now for this historic event. For the perspective from Taiwan, Will Ripley is in Taipei for you. But let’s begin in Beijing with CNN Bureau Chief Steven Jiang. Steven, what can you tell us about this lineup of top officials?

Steven Jiang (00:59):

Well, Leyla, in short, now, it’s all Xi’s men. Before we went into this party congress, there had been a lot of speculation that this would be a norms-busting party congress, but we were just not sure to what degree. And now this lineup really is the latest and the most powerful proof that Xi Jinping holds absolute power over this party of 96 million members, but by extension, this nation of 1.4 billion people. Because by staying on for another five-year term and potentially ruling China for life, he really has busted all the norms and convention and things we thought that had been institutionalized in the Chinese party power structure in terms of leadership, succession plan and promotion of officials. Age limits, term limits, collective leadership, power sharing, meritocracy, they’re all gone.

You mentioned the new members of the standing committee. At least four of them have worked very closely with Xi Jinping during different phases of his career, either in the provinces or in Beijing. Actually, three of them have served as Xi Jinping’s chief of staff or secretary. So these are really the men Xi feels closest to, the men he can trust the most. So regardless of their capability or job performance or even popularity, they have been installed because now the only criteria that seem to matter are affinity and loyalty to Xi.

And I want to just mention one man in particular, the number two party official now, Li Qiang, who is all but certain to become China’s next premier. So he is the man who is going to be in charge of the world’s second largest economy at a time when this economy is facing so many challenges, partly because of his boss’s zero COVID policy. But he is also the man who became extremely unpopular as the Shanghai Party chief because of the government mishandling doing that city’s brutal two-month COVID lockdown from April to June. But it seems it doesn’t matter. He’s now the man standing behind Xi Jinping when they all walk out today. Leyla?

Leyla (03:03):

All right, Will Ripley in Taiwan. What has been the reaction from Taipei to Mr. Xi’s historic third term?

Will Ripley (03:12):

Well, in a way, Leyla, it is just kind of the same boiler plate language that we’ve been hearing for years and that the Taiwan leadership has been responding to for years, saying things like Beijing must abandon these acts of coercion and aggression, that their Taiwan policy doesn’t have any new line of thinking. That’s from the Mainland Affairs Council here in Taipei.

Taiwan says that they insist, they continue to insist on values that they don’t have over there in Beijing, like sovereignty, freedom and democracy for this self-ruled, self-governed island of 24 million people that for more than 70 years has been operating on its own, with its own government, with its own military that has been acquiring more and more weapons to defend itself against what is perceived as a growing threat from China under Xi Jinping’s watch.

I mean, Xi Jinping got a glowing work review in the work report praising his leadership. They would give a very different review here in Taiwan when you have seen in recent years, especially the number of military incursions into the Taiwan self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone, whether it be planes, drones. Then, of course, those unprecedented military drills that encircled Taiwan after the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited here and drew a very, very sharp response from Beijing, Beijing essentially pulling the trigger on a plan that probably had been in place for quite some time to step up military exercises near Taiwan to fly more military aircraft near this island and gather surveillance and intelligence for what a lot of analysts believe is an inevitable move to try to take control of this island because Beijing’s communist rulers and everyone since Mao has said that Taiwan is a part of China.

People in Taiwan, a growing number of them, don’t identify as Chinese. They identify as Taiwanese and that sense of identity, a national identity for an island that is not recognized as a country by most of the world because of political pressure from Beijing, and certainly that pressure has been stepped up under Xi Jinping, they’re buckling down here.

I have to say one thing, Leyla. There’s been a remarkable shift, and when I talk to people about do you think that there is actually a legitimate threat from China? People, when I first moved here, and this is just earlier this year, said, “No, absolutely not. China’s not going to do anything.” More and more people that I talk to now say, “Yeah, it does feel like something is going to happen.”

That is significant from just in what I’ve observed in a matter of months here. People are starting to accept the reality that this thing that’s been talked about for so many years could actually be closer to happening than ever before.

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