‘Strong hands’ needed for stability, says China’s Xi Jinping

President lays down tough message ahead of key Communist Party meeting

Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Pool

Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Pool

 

China’s president Xi Jinping, who is expected to cement his grip on power at a five-yearly Communist Party congress next month, has taken a firm line with comrades, saying stability was an absolute principle that needed to be enforced using “strong hands”.

Mr Xi’s remarks to his fellow cadres were reported by the official state news agency Xinhua, and his words were peppered with references to socialism with Chinese characteristics and the reassuring note that the public’s sense of security has risen to “91.99 per cent in 2016 from 87.55 per cent”.

“Xi noted that development and stability were the absolute principles, so both should be dealt with by strong hands,” the Xinhua news agency reported him as saying.

There has been a major crackdown on human rights activists and civil society since Mr Xi took over the leadership in 2012, and freedom of speech and internet openness has been stifled, while rules overseeing foreign NGOs have been tightened.

“We should continue with social governance through socialism with Chinese characteristics, and become adept in converting the leadership of the party and the advantages of our socialist system into advantages of social governance,” he was quoted as saying.

Speculation of change

The congress, which is the Communist Party’s 19th such gathering, begins on October 18th. Some 2,300 delegates are expected to attend and, during the congress, 11 of 25 Politburo members, including five of the seven members of the most powerful Standing Committee of the Politburo are expected to be replaced. There is even speculation the head count on the standing committee will be reduced to five, which would be a sign of Mr Xi’s strength among the factions at the top of the party.

Within the committee itself, nearly all are due to retire except for Mr Xi who, as well being as president and head of the military, is the party’s general secretary, and the premier, Li Keqiang.

The run-up to the congress has seen a string of appointments in the top leadership, and some surprise departures.

Hu Chunhua, the party boss of the southern province of Guangdong who recently visited Ireland at the head of a large trade delegation, has been in the frame for a senior position since he formally pledged his allegiance to Mr Xi, and the 54 year old has also been mooted as a potential successor to Mr Xi.

Under investigation

Mr Hu’s position has been boosted by the ousting of another party high-flyer, Sun Zhengcai (53), the popular party chief of the municipality of Chongqing, who has been put under investigation for graft and stripped of his position.

Security has been intensified in China ahead of the meeting to make sure nothing can undermine its success, and any issues that might interfere with a successful congress have been shelved until after the meeting.

Mr Xi said that public security staff must improve their political awareness and maintain the authority and unified leadership of the party.

“They should be sober-minded about the difficulties and challenges facing them, and deal with major risks,” he said.