China is on the brink of adopting a "historical resolution" which could secure President Xi Jinping's stranglehold for life.
A four-day, top-secret gathering of hundreds of top-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials is now underway, with the sixth plenary session of the Central Committee held in Beijing set to decide on a so-called "historical resolution" on the country's achievements.
The "draft resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the [party's] 100 years of endeavours" – the first official announcement on Chinese history in four long decades – was delivered by Xi himself, and insiders expect the resolution to be passed.
If that does happen on Thursday as expected, it will set the tone for a rare congress which will be held next year, in which Xi is tipped to snag an unprecedented third term.
It means his grip on power will be extended indefinitely, with experts predicting it will pave the way for him to rule for life.
The historical resolution is also causing a stir because it is so rare, with only two men in the party's history ever penning one before – Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping – with the move allowing both to "dominate party politics until their dying breaths", as Bloomberg reports.
"Getting the party to back his take on China's history – and its future – would be the biggest sign yet that Xi has the power base to potentially rule for life after almost a decade of purging enemies and pushing to foster national pride," author Jenni Marsh writes.
But why is Xi's latest brazen act making global headlines?
The sheer size of China both in terms of population and influence means Xi's leadership will always have a massive impact on the rest of the world.
He's already pursuing radical domestic changes, such as the "common prosperity" campaign which aims to redistribute wealth and which has seen billionaires and celebrities fall foul of the party machine and $1 trillion slashed from the value of Chinese stocks earlier this year.
Part of this strategy is the "three red lines" policy, which has been a major factor in indebted real estate juggernaut Evergrande's downfall, and which has also seen a string of other Chinese property firms struggle to stay afloat.
If the historical resolution is passed, it would pave the way for Xi to make even more aggressive changes, and "push back against the US on trade, coronavirus probes and, of course, Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province", Marsh explains.
In other words, it would not only hand Xi even greater power, but also the added confidence boost to forge ahead with potentially radical plans.
Xie Maosong, a senior researcher with the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post the historical resolution "is going to be a document that looks back at the past century and establishes Xi as the leader standing at the historical juncture when China is growing into a world power on a socialist path, a path it has chosen to avoid the problems arising from the Western capitalist way of development".
China in turmoil
But it comes during a time of escalating turmoil for the emerging superpower.
As mentioned previously, the Evergrande fiasco has been an ongoing thorn in the side of authorities, sparking global speculation it could even be China's "Lehman moment" and lead to widespread contagion.
It also coincides with a nationwide energy crisis, and amid rising tensions with Taiwan, India and other neighbouring nations, as well as a growing coronavirus outbreak as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
As Oxford University's China Centre research associate George Magnus tells Bloomberg, Xi's growing power comes with a huge risk.
"The great irony is that in the 2020s and beyond when China needs to embrace a new development model, there would normally be a strong case for more decentralisation and experimentation," he told the publication.
"But Xi's model calls precisely for an inflexible and flawed opposite structure. He may rue this governance model sooner or later."
- Alexis Carey, news.com.au