China’s most important annual political meetings wrapped up Monday, leaving leader Xi Jinping firmly at the helm of a superpower that appears more eager to push back against the United States than at any time in decades. Much of what took place over 10 days in Beijing at the highly choreographed meetings, known as the two sessions, was pre-arranged – but they also threw up a few surprises.
To long-term observers of Chinese politics, the meetings sent an unequivocal message: the Chinese Communist Party is advancing and the state is in retreat. The annual meeting of the country’s rubber-stamp legislature and top political advisory body is traditionally a stage for the central government and the premier to shine. But the party – and Xi – has increasingly loomed large over the event.
The National People’s Congress not only endorsed an unprecedented third term for Xi as president, but also approved his sweeping reform plan to further bolster the party’s role in all aspects of decision-making and governance. The overhaul grants the party even more direct control over the crucial financial and technology sectors – at the expense of the State Council, China’s cabinet.