Balance of Power: Chinese Checks on Power Could Get a Rewrite

How Xi Jinping Went From Feeding Pigs to Ruling China

For a generation, age has been the great limiter in Chinese politics. President Xi Jinping could change all that.

A twice-a-decade leadership shuffle during a Communist Party meeting starting next week will be scrutinized for signs on whether Xi, 64, may want to stay on when his second term ends in 2022. All eyes will be on anti-graft chief Wang Qishan, who is 69 and ostensibly due to retire under party norms.

If Xi retains Wang, it could establish a precedent for the president to stay on when his own career reaches a similar point.

As Ting Shi writes, the retirement convention is part of a system of unwritten rules that has underpinned peaceful power transfers since 1992. Xi has amassed more power than anyone since then, and his moves to jail retired top leaders for corruption has made giving up control riskier.

The decision on Wang may indicate whether the president intends to return China to a more personality-driven leadership model. That could help Xi push through bigger reforms. But it could also mean policy-making becomes more unpredictable in the world's second-largest economy.

(For an interactive look at the path to power in China, click here.)

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President Xi Jinping (right) and anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan on Sept. 30, 2014 in Beijing.
Photographer: Feng Li/Getty Images AsiaPac

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Photographer: MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter

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