Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

Xi Solidifies Party Dominance Over State Apparatus at Two Sessions

The first two days of the Two Sessions saw three developments that more firmly entrenched the Party’s domination over the state government. 

The first two days of the Two Sessions saw three developments that more firmly entrenched the Party’s domination over the state government. 

The annual meeting of the People’s Republic of China’s rubber stamp legislature and political consultancy body commenced in early March 2024 with storm clouds over the Chinese Communist Party. 

China’s stock markets tumbled just before the Chinese New Year, forcing Beijing to tap the “national team” to spend scarce funds to stabilize the situation. The real estate sector crisis also worsened with liquidation suits filed against top developers in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, countries stepped up anti-dumping probes in response to China’s excess capacity spilling over to the global economy and the international community is becoming more vocal about potential PRC aggression and Beijing’s “no limits” partnership with Moscow in light of Russia’s progress in Ukraine. 

Instead of assuaging the world about the PRC’s intentions with economic reforms, stimulus, and a shift in diplomatic stance, several developments occurred at the Two Sessions which suggest that Xi Jinping is doubling down on power consolidation and authoritarianism.

Party dominates the state

The first two days of the Two Sessions saw three developments that more firmly entrenched the Party’s domination over the state government. 

On March 4, National People’s Congress spokesman Lou Qinjian announced that the PRC premier will no longer hold a news conference after the end of the Two Sessions and there will be no premier press conferences in the future barring exceptional circumstances. 

Lou explained that the premier press conference was scrapped because it overlapped with similar interviews during the Two Sessions and the work reports. Lou said that “society’s major concerns have been specifically addressed in the reports” and the reports will be “publicized so that the media and the public can learn about their content easily.” Lou also said that “more interview opportunities for both domestic and foreign journalists” would be provided during the Two Sessions, including an increased number of ministerial press conferences.

The cancellation of the premier press conference ended a three-decade-long practice and closed a window where external observers could occasionally catch a glimpse of CCP elite politics and the true state of the CCP regime. For instance, Li Keqiang made the shocking observation that China has around 600 million people earning a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan at the 2020 premier press conference, while Wen Jiabao extended the 2012 press conference to receive questions from journalists about the Wang Lijun incident. 

The ending of the premier press conference also received much attention and discussion in China and abroad. Commentators saw the development as another sign of Xi and the Party establishing themselves over the state. They also believe that the CCP is regressing instead of becoming more open, and Xi is becoming more authoritarian. 

Also on March 4, official CCP media released a list of officials on the presidium of the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress that received attention due to its noteworthy exclusions. While all members of the Politburo Standing Committee were usually included in the presidium, the 2024 list excluded Li Qiang and Ding Xuexiang. A comparison between this year’s list and that from last year also showed that all top officials in the State Council system were not included, as well as three other officials who were purged. 

Finally, the NPC debated a draft revision to the State Council Organic Law on March 5 that clearly placed the Party over the State Council. For instance, the draft revision said that the State Council is to be guided by the political thinking and theories of the five generations of CCP leaders, including “Xi Jinping Thought,” as well as “firmly uphold the ‘quan wei’ of Party Central and its centralized and unified leadership.” The State Council is also required to adhere to strategic deployment guided by “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law.”

‘Collective leadership’ weakened further

Aside from setting the Party above the state, the three developments at the Two Sessions indicate that Xi Jinping is further marginalizing the “collective leadership” system. 

The “collective leadership” system is a product of factional struggle within the CCP elite. After the death of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping advocated the “collective leadership” system and rehabilitated many veteran cadres to differentiate himself from Mao and his loyalists while growing his support in the Party. Deng eventually defeated his political enemies and the “collective leadership” model allowed him to reign as paramount leader despite never becoming Party Chairman or general secretary. The “collective leadership” system also allowed the CCP to brand itself as being amenable to “democracy” and “reform” abroad, hoodwinking the West and other countries into believing that China was undergoing a “peaceful evolution” and was not still a communist dictatorship in form and function. 

When Jiang Zemin was Party boss and during the Jiang faction’s era of dominance (1997 to 2012), the “collective leadership” system allowed Jiang and his faction to “rule the country through corruption” and dominate the Party and state organs. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were effectively marginalized by the “collective leadership” of the Jiang faction, and were helpless to fix the many problems causing crises for the regime that were perpetuated or created by the Jiang faction 

Xi Jinping sought to weaken the “collective leadership” system after he took office and found that he needed to consolidate power to deal with the Jiang faction and ram through his policies. Xi moved first to establish various small groups and committees to work around the “collective leadership.” He then took the mantle of “core” leader in 2016 and ultimately secured paramount status within the CCP at the 20th Party Congress.

Xi’s moves to bring the State Council firmly under his and the Party’s leadership at the 2024 Two Sessions essentially reduces the State Council to an “administrative office” of the Central Committee and the Xi leadership. Li Qiang is also the equivalent of Xi’s chief “secretary” or “office manager,” and the PRC premier no longer has greater latitude to pursue his agenda for the economy unlike his predecessors. 

External reaction

Xi Jinping likely believes that he must strengthen his control over the state government to improve the CCP regime’s governing capability and better deal with the crises plaguing the PRC. 

Xi’s growing authoritarianism, however, will likely invite even more trouble for the PRC and deepen the regime’s quagmire. Foreign investors and governments will believe that China is further closing itself off instead of opening up, and become more hesitant to invest in China and take precautions against a more threatening CCP.

The U.S. and its allies could also become more paranoid about the Xi leadership and even less trusting of Beijing as the latter shores up authoritarianism and cuts down even more on political transparency. This could lead to a rise in sanctions, escalating tensions with China, and a worsening of the regime’s many internal and external problems.

Search past entries by date
“The breadth of SinoInsider’s insights—from economics through the military to governance, all underpinned by unparalleled reporting on the people in charge—is stunning. In my over fifty years of in-depth reading on the PRC, unclassified and classified, SinoInsider is in a class all by itself.”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Unique insights are available frequently from the reports of Sinoinsider.”
Michael Pillsbury, Senior Fellow for China Strategy, The Heritage Foundation
“Thank you for your information and analysis. Very useful.”
Prof. Ravni Thakur, University of Delhi, India
“SinoInsider’s research has helped me with investing in or getting out of Chinese companies.”
Charles Nelson, Managing Director, Murdock Capital Partners
“I value SinoInsider because of its always brilliant articles touching on, to name just a few, CCP history, current trends, and factional politics. Its concise and incisive analysis — absent the cliches that dominate China policy discussions in DC and U.S. corporate boardrooms — also represents a major contribution to the history of our era by clearly defining the threat the CCP poses to American peace and prosperity and global stability. I am grateful to SinoInsider — long may it thrive!”
Lee Smith, Author and journalist
“Your publication insights tremendously help us complete our regular analysis on in-depth issues of major importance. ”
Ms. Nicoleta Buracinschi, Embassy of Romania to the People’s Republic of China
"I’m a very happy, satisfied subscriber to your service and all the deep information it provides to increase our understanding. SinoInsider is profoundly helping to alter the public landscape when it comes to the PRC."
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Prof. Ming’s information about the Sino-U.S. trade war is invaluable for us in Taiwan’s technology industry. Our company basically acted on Prof. Ming’s predictions and enlarged our scale and enriched our product lines. That allowed us to deal capably with larger orders from China in 2019. ”
Mr. Chiu, Realtek R&D Center
“I am following China’s growing involvement in the Middle East, seeking to gain a better understanding of China itself and the impact of domestic constraints on its foreign policy. I have found SinoInsider quite helpful in expanding my knowledge and enriching my understanding of the issues at stake.”
Ehud Yaari, Lafer International Fellow, The Washington Institute
“SinoInsider’s research on the CCP examines every detail in great depth and is a very valuable reference. Foreign researchers will find SinoInsider’s research helpful in understanding what is really going on with the CCP and China. ”
Baterdene, Researcher, The National Institute for Security Studies (Mongolian)
“The forecasts of Prof. Chu-cheng Ming and the SinoInsider team are an invaluable resource in guiding our news reporting direction and anticipating the next moves of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.”
Chan Miu-ling, Radio Television Hong Kong China Team Deputy Leader
“SinoInsider always publishes interesting and provocative work on Chinese elite politics. It is very worthwhile to follow the work of SinoInsider to get their take on factional struggles in particular.”
Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London
“[SinoInsider has] been very useful in my class on American foreign policy because it contradicts the widely accepted argument that the U.S. should work cooperatively with China. And the whole point of the course is to expose students to conflicting approaches to contemporary major problems.”
Roy Licklider, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
“As a China-based journalist, SinoInsider is to me a very reliable source of information to understand deeply how the CCP works and learn more about the factional struggle and challenges that Xi Jinping may face. ”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“SinoInsider offers an interesting perspective on the Sino-U.S. trade war and North Korea. Their predictions are often accurate, which is definitely very helpful.”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“I have found SinoInsider to provide much greater depth and breadth of coverage with regard to developments in China. The subtlety of the descriptions of China's policy/political processes is absent from traditional media channels.”
John Lipsky, Peter G. Peterson Distinguished Scholar, Kissinger Center for Global Affairs
“My teaching at Cambridge and policy analysis for the UK audience have been informed by insights from your analyzes. ”
Dr Kun-Chin Lin, University Lecturer in Politics,
Deputy Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge University
" SinoInsider's in-depth and nuanced analysis of Party dynamics is an excellent template to train future Sinologists with a clear understanding that what happens in the Party matters."
Stephen Nagy, Senior Associate Professor, International Christian University
“ I find Sinoinsider particularly helpful in instructing students about the complexities of Chinese politics and what elite competition means for the future of the US-China relationship.”
Howard Sanborn, Professor, Virginia Military Institute
“SinoInsider has been one of my most useful (and enjoyable) resources”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Professor Ming and his team’s analyses of current affairs are very far-sighted and directionally accurate. In the present media environment where it is harder to distinguish between real and fake information, SinoInsider’s professional perspectives are much needed to make sense of a perilous and unpredictable world. ”
Liu Cheng-chuan, Professor Emeritus, National Chiayi University