China: No Country for Old Men?

The way in which Xi deals with the age question in the make-up of the PSC will be a good indicator of the nature of his power and the extent of his success.


The News Lens

Date: 2017/09/23
By: Frances Kitt

On Oct. 18 the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will kick off, and the

Photo Credit: Corbis/達志影像

new makeup of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) will be revealed. The policy direction and success of President Xi Jinping’s next term depend on who makes the cut.

A mostly informal set of rules govern eligibility for a spot on the PSC. One important convention holds that promotion to or retention on the committee is dictated by the candidate’s age when the National Congress is held. This precedent, started and upheld since 2002, is encapsulated by the catchphrase “seven up, eight down” (七上八下) — if a candidate is 67 at the time of the Congress, they may advance upwards in the ranks. If a candidate is 68 or older, they probably expect to be retired.

In theory, this norm precludes five out of seven members from staying on the PSC this October. According to the age norm, only one member of the PSC (apart from Xi, aged 64) will not be of retirement age come October: China’s second-in-command, Premier Li Keqiang, who is 62.

If the age precedent is upheld, which candidates will fill the remaining five spots in China’s leadership? How will the leadership line-up change? What the age rule means in practice has sparked a flurry of speculation in the run-up to the National Congress — but perhaps a more illuminating question is whether Xi will uphold the “seven up, eight down” convention at all.    [FULL  STORY]

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