China's President Xi Jinping (right), China's Premier Li Keqiang and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang attend the closing ceremony of the 20th Chinese Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 22, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

BEIJING: China’s ruling Communist Party reaffirmed President Xi Jinping’s continued leadership in running the nation Saturday, one day ahead of giving him a widely expected third five-year term as leader.

A party congress held every five years effectively removed four of the seven members of senior leadership — including Premier Li Keqiang, the nation’s No. 2 official.

The weeklong congress, which wrapped up Saturday, also wrote his major policy initiatives on the economy and the military into the party’s constitution, as well as his push to rebuild and strengthen the party’s position by declaring it absolutely central to China’s development and future.

“The congress calls on all party members to acquire a deep understanding of the decisive significance of establishing comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the party Central Committee and in the party as a whole and establishing the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought,” said a resolution on the constitution approved at Saturday’s closing session.

“Xi Jinping Thought’’ refers to his ideology, which was enshrined in the party charter at the previous congress in 2017.

Xi, in brief closing remarks, said the revision to the constitution “sets out clear requirements for upholding and strengthening the party’s overall leadership.’’

Li was among four of the seven members of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee who were missing from the party’s new 205-member Central Committee, which was formally elected at the closing session.

That means they won’t be reappointed to the Standing Committee in a leadership shuffle that will be unveiled on Sunday. Xi is widely expected to retain the top spot, getting a third term as general secretary.

The three others who were dropped were Shanghai party chief Han Zheng, party advisory body head Wang Yang, and Li Zhanshu, a longtime Xi ally and the head of the largely ceremonial National People’s Congress.

Li Keqiang will remain as premier for about six more months until a new slate of government ministers is named.

Band members perform during the closing ceremony. Image Credit: AP

The roughly 2,000 delegates to the party congress — wearing blue surgical masks under China’s strict “zero-COVID’’ policy — met in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor as party leader, was helped off the stage a little more than two hours into the 3.5-hour meeting, sparking speculation about his health.

Hu, 79, spoke briefly with Xi, whom he had been sitting next to in the front row, before walking off with an assistant holding him by the arm. There was no official comment. Jiang Zemin, 96, who was president before Hu, did not appear at this congress.

Only 11 women were among the 205 people named to the Central Committee, or about 5 per cent of the total. Members of minority groups made up 4 per cent. Those percentages were roughly the same as in the last Central Committee.

A report read by Xi at the opening session of the congress a week ago showed a determination to stay on the current path in the face of domestic and international challenges.

Xi has emerged during his first decade in power as one of China’s most powerful leaders in modern times, rivaling Mao Zedong, who founded the communist state in 1949 and led the country for a quarter-century.

An expected third five-year term as party leader would break an unofficial two-term limit that was instituted to try to prevent the excesses of Mao’s one-person rule, notably the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, under which Xi suffered as a youth.

Xi has put loyalists in key positions and taken personal charge of policy working groups.