Very few changes are expected, as the Chinese Communist Party will meet for the 19th Congress, choosing the leadership for the next five years. Current Secretary-General and Chinese President Xi Jinping will probably get a new mandate, on the platform of continuation of reforms.
Over 2200 party members will attend the twice-in-a-decade event, that is still shrouded in mystery. Their precise agenda is not publicly known, but most of the attention will be on personal decisions about the most important position within the party. Experts will be carefully watching if members close to Xi will get the nod, and will there be any indication of the future leadership of the world’s most massive political organization.
A lot of political intrigues are connected to top leadership appointments, especially the seven-member standing committee of the Politburo, China’s main decision-making body, and 15 other members of the politburo who command various policy portfolios. Also important is the order in which the men emerge because this will indicate the new pecking order, according to Indian Economic Times. Xi was tabbed as the new leader during the Congress in 2007, when he got his first position close to leadership.
Xi was tabbed as the new leader during the Congress in 2007, when he got his first position close to leadership. Now, it is much less clear who could be the headliners of the new generation, as some of the favorites to emulate the older members have been in the center of corruption scandals.
Observers will also closely monitor the fate of Wang Qishan, the country’s anti-corruption head, and Xi’s right-hand-man. Wang’s age, as he is 69, means that according to Communist party norms he should step down. But some predict Xi will bend that informal age-limit and allow Wang to continue spearheading the fight against corruption, a crusade the Chinese President has used to eliminate a number of key rivals.
The balance of power after the Congress will be key for Xi’s ambition to stay on top of the party, even after a ten-year period. The position of Chinese President is limited to two terms, but Secretary-General doesn’t come with those limitations. That would mean that there could be a scenario where Xi would leave the head of state position, but stay on the top of the party. He also intends to put some of his doctrine in the Communist party’s Constitution, a very big honor that would put him close to the impact founder Mao Zedong had.
Andrew Nathan, a professor of political science at Columbia University, says there is a growing consensus that Xi will seek to stay in power beyond the end of his second term, in 2022.
“The way he is tightening up on everything and making a cult of personality, it feels like he is going to be in it for the long run,” he said for the Guardian. Xi seems to be cultivating a personality cult, experts say, and see this Congress as an opportunity for his ”coronation”.
No changes in policy
Thi Congress will not change many things about policy, and the members will probably opt for consistency. Party spokesman Tuo Zhen told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that China will persist with opening up and expanding market access, but foreign executives and analysts question whether these kinds of comments will mean a lot on the ground.
“I don’t see market opening coming. It’s all about discipline and control,” said one senior China-based American executive, who declined to be identified, said to Reuters.
Beijing’s place in foreign policy will also probably be discussed. The country has a bigger influence in global politics, and with the crisis on the Korean peninsula and the disputes in the South China Sea, any voice from the huge palace on Tiananmen Square will be discussed and analyzed around the world in the days to come.