Xi Jinping has emerged from this week's Communist Party Congress looking more powerful than ever before. His name has been placed among the pantheon of communist thinkers, alongside Marx, Lenin, and Mao, with a reference to Xi Jinping thought added to the party constitution. This rare designation would make it difficult for anyone to challenge his authority as long as he lives.
But the new politburo standing committee, the core group at the heart of Chinese decision making, is not stuck with Mr. Xi's protegees, as many observers had expected. In addition to Mr. Xi, who is 64, his standing committee includes his 62-year-old incumbent Premier, Li Keqiang, who is associated with more liberal economic policies. Ranked third is Li Zhanshu, a longtime associate of Mr. Xi, followed by Wang Yang, a politician affiliated with the communist youth league, who has served in some of the country's most dynamic provinces. The other new members include Wang Huning, a former academic and speechwriter, who has come up with some of Mr. Xi's signature policies, Zhou Leji, who takes on the party's critical anti-graft brief, and Han Zheng, former party boss of Shanghai.
Notably, the seven men range in age from 60 to 67, meaning there are no obvious younger candidates to serve as successor to Mr. Xi or Mr. Li. Mr. Xi's centralisation of power, and the relative inexperience of his proteges, have led many to speculate that he does not intend to step down in 2022, after two terms, as his predecessors did.