China’s most senior officials endorse economic plans for years ahead

China’s most senior officials endorse economic plans for years ahead

But they left one little thing out

Almost exactly ten years ago, in a typically roundabout way, China made clear who its next leader would be. A man who, not long earlier, had been far less famous than his folk-singer wife was made vice-chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission. Sure enough, two years later, he took charge of the party and the armed forces and became China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong. Were precedent to be followed, a meeting of senior officials in Beijing this week would have provided just such a clue about who would succeed Xi Jinping. It provided nothing of the sort.

That is no surprise. When China’s constitution was revised in 2018 to scrap a limit of two five-year terms for the post of state president, which Mr Xi also holds, it was a clear signal that he did not wish to step down when his ten years were up. As head of the party, he was not bound by any term limit. But his predecessor, Hu Jintao, had given up both party and state roles in quick succession. Mr Xi had been expected to follow Mr Hu’s lead.

For anyone still in doubt about Mr Xi’s intentions, the party’s just-concluded meeting gave a hint as obvious as the one in 2010 that heralded his rise to power. A communiqué issued on October 29th, at the end of the four-day conclave of its roughly 370-strong Central Committee, said the gathering had endorsed “recommendations” for a five-year economic plan and a blueprint for China’s development until 2035 (full details of these had yet to be published when The Economist went to press). But it made no mention of any new civilian appointment to the military commission.