Just before Chinese party leader and president Xi Jinping closes the 20th party congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), something totally unexpected happens: in front of the cameras, an official in a black suit walks up to Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao . The 79-year-old old man sits immediately to the left of Xi, and looks shaky. The man whispers something in Hu’s ear. Hu seems surprised and doesn’t seem to want to get up. A moment later another man arrives. The men take a red folder from Hu’s hands, grab it under his arms and take it away. Li Zhanshu, third man on the Party board, still half gets up to help Hu, but Party ideologue Wang Huning urges him back into his seat. Hu half turns and says another word to Xi. Then he pats Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the back and disappears from the stage. In full view All this is happening in full view of the nearly 2,300 delegates and the few foreign journalists present at the closure. Chinese state television shows no images of it. Not even Xi’s speech that will follow. That is also not possible, because then everyone could see that Hu Jintao’s chair is suddenly empty. That would immediately spark a lot of speculation on China’s social media. There was also no trace of it on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Searching by his name only yielded some old messages. Also read: Who will tell Xi Jinping that China is not doing well? What this highly unusual event at the otherwise fully orchestrated congress means: no one really knows. But it certainly is a sign of dissension in the highest ranks of the party. Otherwise this would never have been seen in public. Hu Jintao’s policies have been heavily condemned by Xi indirectly. Also in the work report from which Xi read parts at the beginning of the congress, a very negative picture emerges of the ten years that Hu was in power. According to Xi, the CPC has slipped to the brink during that period. The party would have been on the brink of collapse due to the rampant corruption, the rich would have been allowed to enrich themselves indefinitely and the ideological decline within the party would have almost killed the party. Xi says he has put a resolute end to all that. Chinese television was clearly embarrassed by the whole thing. The image even stood still for a moment, the commentators in the studio almost didn’t know what to say anymore. They had to wait an unusually long time before the congress was finally officially closed. That happened at least an hour and a half later than previously predicted. Perhaps Hu had to leave because he disagrees with Xi’s choices for the new top party leadership? They will only be made public on Sunday, but it can already be deduced from the choice of new members of the Central Committee who will certainly not be able to make it to the top on Sunday. Strict anti-covid policy For example, Xi’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang (67) was not re-elected to the Central Committee. Especially recently, Li has made great efforts to get the economy back on the agenda. He seems to have long disagreed with Xi’s strict anti-covid policy, which is catastrophic for the Chinese economy. Also not coming back is China’s third man Li Zhanshu (72), the man who seemed to want to help Hu Jintao. Also gone are Wang Yang (67) and Han Zheng (68). That gives Xi the space to name four new people, all possibly from his own camp. Also read: All nominations are pre-cooked at the Chinese party congress Strikingly, Xi also no longer cares about the previous custom that leaders who were 67 at the time of the congress can stay on for another five years, but leaders who are 68 retire. According to this unwritten rule, both Li Keqiang and Wang Yang could have stayed on. Xi herself is 69. It is also striking that two of the unnamed people seemed to be on Hu’s side, insofar as this can be deduced from the minute indications. Li Zhanshu wanted to stand up to support Hu, Li Keqiang got another pat on the back from Hu Jintao. What exactly is going on may never be revealed. Before Xi Jinping himself took office in 2012, he disappeared from public view for two weeks. No one has ever been able to find out what exactly happened in those two weeks.
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