October 23, 2016 2:00 am JST

Xi Jinping setting table to raise party leaders' retirement age

OKI NAGAI, Nikkei staff writer

President Xi Jinping, left, and Premier Li Keqiang

BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping, also the general secretary of the Communist Party, has begun considering whether to extend the effective retirement age for the party's top leadership, according to some party members.

The current, unwritten retirement age for those in top leadership positions -- which is always tacitly agreed to -- is 68. Pushing back the age limit would allow Xi -- who turns 69 at the end of his 10-year, two-term reign as general secretary in 2020 -- to seek a third term.

The Central Committee's sixth plenary session, an important party meeting, begins on Monday, and the subject is expected to be taken up. A decision would then be finalized at the next National Congress, about a year from now.

Under the party's present rule, five of the seven current members of the Central Politburo Standing Committee will be 68 or older when the National Congress is held. It is expected that they will retire.

Xi and Premier Li Keqiang will stay on. At the following National Congress, in 2022, only Li would remain in the leadership.

Some suspect that the extension plan is motivated by Xi's fear of losing his grip on power.

In Chinese politics, the Communist Party advises the government, with the party's general secretary doubling as the country's president. The constitution limits the tenure of president to two terms, or 10 years. A later retirement age for party leaders would allow Xi to continue wielding power after stepping down as president.

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