The Communist Party of China meets this Sunday to re-elect Xi Jinping

Nearly 2,300 delegates from the Communist Party of China (CPC) are meeting in Beijing on Sunday for a National Congress that should lead to Xi Jinping’s re-election for a third term.

Except for great surprise in this week of the conclave, the 69-year-old leader will be ratified as general secretary of the party, a prelude to his re-election as president next year, which will consolidate him as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

"This meeting will be the most relevant political event in China in decades" and will mark the course of the country in the next ten years or more, said the consulting firm Trivium China, convinced that Xi will obtain a new mandate for five years.

The five-year conclave will begin at 10:00 a.m. local time (02:00 GMT) in the Great Hall of the People, a huge building in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, with a speech by the Chinese leader since 2012.

Xi will review his last term, but will also offer a roadmap for the next five years. The precedents invite us to think of a long speech: in 2017 she spoke for three and a half hours.

Congress spokesman Sun Yeli told a news conference on Saturday that the event will end on Oct. 22, with the choice of Xi and the rest of the party leadership expected to be revealed the day after.

In this highly choreographed conclave, held largely behind closed doors, the 2,296 participants will also name the around 200 members of the Central Committee.

These members, in turn, will designate the 25 members of the Political Bureau and those who will make up the powerful Permanent Committee, the country’s highest decision-making body.

One of the key issues of the meeting will revolve around whether or not to maintain the restrictive covid-zero strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

This policy reinforced social control over citizens, with each of their movements recorded digitally, in a country already criticized for human rights violations.

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Despite the inconveniences and the economic damage caused, the state media defended this week that "loosen up" before the virus it would be "irresponsible".

"it’s a paradox"said Valarie Tan, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin. "Xi will leave Congress with a lot of power, but the country he is in charge of is in trouble".

China’s near-isolation from the rest of the world and repeated lockdowns stifled growth, which may be the weakest in four decades, barring 2020 when the global economy sank from the outbreak of the pandemic.

"Fatigue is seen after almost three years of covid zero"expressed Tan. And the discontent "rises to the surface" on social media, he warned.

This week, China’s digital censorship machine removed virtually all references to a rare protest in Beijing with banners denouncing President Xi and his health policy.

Videos and photos shared on social media Thursday appeared to show a protester placing two hand-painted banners with critical phrases against power on a bridge in the capital.

One virulently attacked the country’s health policy and the other incited citizens to demonstrate and overthrow the "treacherous dictator Xi Jinping".

The inauguration of the congress will follow a strict protocol "covid zero"with the organizers and journalists locked in a bubble and without contact with the outside for two days before.

Participants must practice daily covid tests before attending the events, some organized by videoconference instead of in person.

At a hotel in western Beijing, organizers set up a media center packed with displays extolling Xi and decked out in the CCP’s trademark red and gold colors.

Scattered around the venue are tables with books on Xi’s thought and Chinese development, as well as a display with a "digital human" artificial intelligence that tells jokes and sings songs.

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