Beijing: Ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be held in 2022, President Xi Jinping appears confident to secure his third term in power with his allies dominating not just the major territorial positions but also key functional areas of government.

Xi projected this confidence while visiting Hong Kong on July 1, his first trip away from the mainland since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. From key personnel appointments to a surge in loyalty displays, all signs point to China's leader continuing in power, Beijing-Shanghai-based political analyst, Dan Macklin said in a report by The Diplomat.

President Xi Jinping, who has been occupying the top post since 2012, was unanimously chosen as a delegate to the ruling party's 20th national congress at the CPC Guangxi regional meeting on April 22.

During the upcoming National Congress, CPC's Central Committee, the party's top governing body delegates will go to vote, during congress, which is held every five years for the party's elite.

The committee's 200 or more members will vote on who will be seated on the Politburo and its Standing Committee, the Communist Party's highest decision-making body.

Delegates to the CCP's National Congress are first selected by congresses in China's 31 provincial-level regions, which have all now concluded. In half of these regions, the party secretary has been replaced during the past year, representing a significant turnover in local leadership.

Among the appointees are numerous allies and associates of Xi, including Liang Yanshun in Ningxia, Ni Yuefeng in Hebei, and Sun Shaocheng in Inner Mongolia. Meanwhile, many existing Xi proteges leading China's largest population centres have been reconfirmed in their roles, at least until the National Congress.

This means that Cai Qi in Beijing, Li Xi in Guangdong, Chen Min'er in Chongqing, and even Li Qiang in COVID-troubled Shanghai should all be reappointed to the Politburo, The Diplomat reported.

Xi's proteges make up the majority of the 25 members of the CCP's Standing Committee of the CCP Politburo. As a result, a political battle over personnel issues at the party's core is quite improbable. While there has been speculation of pushback from former Premier Zhu Rongji and his allies, their impact will remain limited.

The most important rivals to Xi and his allies are the Tuanpai, officials who rose through the Communist Youth League under former President Hu Jintao and outgoing Premier Li Keqiang. But their influence has waned significantly during Xi's first two terms, and several Tuanpai stars have recently been side lined from front-line politics.

Apart from these personnel changes, the local congress season was notable for the praise that Xi received from regional leaders, both allies and rivals.

According to veteran analyst Cheng Li, only one member, Li Zhanshu, is expected to retire this year. In this scenario, both Xi and Han Zheng, as well as another older Politburo member, perhaps Liu He, will be re-appointed past the age limit of 68 that has been enforced in recent decades.

This would bring continuity to Xi at a time of significant policy challenges, while also making his contravention of age norms seem less personalistic, The Diplomat reported.

But if Xi and his confidants postpone their retirements, it could legitimize factional rivals to do the same.

Xi also appears to be slowing the rise of younger leaders, with regional party committees now substantially older than they were 10 years ago. The resulting risk is that China relapses into the gerontocracy of the Mao and Deng eras, creating a dearth of future leadership talent.

Given the above, "with his position looking secure, Xi might decide to spend time less on political horse-trading and more time putting his feet up," Dan said.