Beijing: On October 16, President Xi Jinping of China may get a third term in office, making him one of the modern greats of the dragon country. The dates of the Chinese Communist Party's 20th-congress">20th Congress have set the ball in motion.

More important than the reaffirmation of his ultimate power will be the broad policy direction he is expected to give to the Congress. That will determine the projection of China's power in the domestic maritime arena, prominent neighbours like India and Australia, and the straining relations with the United States.

The CCP's 25-member-politburo" met in late August to announce that preparations are "progressing smoothly". The week-long Congress will bring together around 2,000 delegates from across China.

But that is where the convention stops. President Xi will break convention by seeking a record third term at China's supreme leader.

The Politburo decided that the seventh plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee will be convened on October 9 in Beijing, which will be followed by the 20th Party Congress, which will be convened on October 16.

Xinhua reports: "It was stressed at the meeting that the 20th CPC National Congress is a congress of great significance...and advance toward the Second Centenary Goal. The congress will hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, uphold Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development, and thoroughly implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era."

The Congress will take stock of the Party's work over the past five years, as well as major achievements and valuable experience of the Party's Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core in uniting and leading the whole Party and Chinese people of all ethnic groups to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.

The congress will thoroughly review the international and domestic situations, comprehensively grasp the new requirements for the development of the cause of the Party and the country on the new journey in the new era, as well as the new expectations of the people.

The congress will formulate action plans and major policies, mobilize all Party members and people from all ethnic groups across the country to firm up confidence in history, strengthen historical initiative, innovate on the basis of what has been done, and bravely charge ahead.

The politburo discussed that all party members and people from all ethnic groups across the country will be mobilized to continue advancing the Five-Sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy in a coordinated manner, "pushing forward common prosperity for all, advancing the great new project of Party building, and promoting the building of a community with a shared future for humanity".

A new CPC Central Committee and a new CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will be elected at the congress.

However, President Xi's travel from the last Congress to the next has not been smooth. He has had to quell dissent with an iron hand if only to confirm his hold over the party and its cadres. The party has spread Xi's ideas and thoughts wide and far in the country to ensure total faith in and loyalty to his leadership.

However, the President encountered some heated moments when people were annoyed by his Zero Covid policy that saw entire cities, including Shanghai, come to a standstill as they were completely locked down. Millions of Chinese were forced to stay home for months. They were short of groceries, food, and medicine. Children lost out on studies, adults on jobs. Thousands of factories were closed and even the Shanghai port was shut down for weeks. Tonnes of trade cargo was stuck in the port, leading to substantial losses.

The lockdowns sparked waves of public outcry, with many growing increasingly frustrated with the unending restrictions on their daily life. The zero-tolerance approach has also crippled economic growth -- long a source of legitimacy for the party. Unemployment of youth surged to a record high of 20 per cent, while a rural banking scandal and a spiralling property crisis sparked protests.

On the international front, according to American media, "diplomatically, Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a 'no-limits' friendship between the two countries weeks before Moscow launched its war on Ukraine" and Beijing's refusal to recognize the invasion "further strained its fraying ties with the United States, Europe and much of the developed world".

The political headwinds have fuelled intense speculation about Xi's authority in some quarters of the overseas China-watching community, with some questioning his prospects of securing a third term, media analysts say. At the same time, those in the know of China's internal politics contend that threats to Xi's popularity or grip on power are exaggerated as Xi consistently waged a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown "to purge opponents, silence dissent and instil loyalty". In the process, he revamped and secured a "firm grip over the military and other critical levers of power".

The western media says that "holding the congress in mid-October also leaves some buffer time for Xi to attend major international events in November, such as the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia". The President has not left the country for nearly three years - since the outbreak of Covid - and that had a "very negative impact on China's diplomacy".