What to look for from China's 20th Communist Party Congress

 | Updated: Sep 01, 2022, 08:22 AM IST

China's ruling Communist Party opens its 20th congress on October 16 which is likely to end with President Xi Jinping anointed for a third, five-year term as the supreme leader and a shuffle of personnel on the decision-making Politburo.

Below are key questions and answers about the Party Congress.

(Text: Reuters)

China's Communist Congress

About 2,300 party members from across the country will gather, mostly behind closed doors, at the cavernous Great Hall of the People on Beijing's Tiananmen Square for a once-in-five-years congress that typically runs for about one week.

Delegates will elect about 200 full members with voting rights to the party's elite Central Committee, plus about 170 alternates, drawing from a pre-selected pool.

The new Central Committee's first plenum, held the day after the Congress ends, will select from its ranks 25 members for the Politburo.

Most closely watched will be the unveiling of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the party's top echelon that currently has seven members, after the plenum.

(Photograph:AFP)

Jinping

Xi will unveil his new top leadership team, and the congress will also see a sweeping reshuffle of the top echelons of China’s power structure, putting in place people who will set policy – economic, diplomatic, security and social - for the next five years and beyond.

(Photograph:AFP)

Jinping

Unlikely. Xi, 69, holds three key titles: General Secretary of the Communist Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President. He is expected to retain the first two titles at the Party Congress, and the presidency during the annual National People's Congress in March 2023.

Anything less would be a major surprise, as Xi has concentrated decision-making power and political authority around this trinity of titles, consolidating his position as what is officially described as "core" of the party.

A third term as party General Secretary would break the norm adhered to by his two predecessors to step down after 10 years, or two full terms.

By retaining his title as chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi would stick with a long-held notion that "the party must control the gun". Xi has revamped the organisational structure of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to have the line of command lead to him alone.

Xi paved the way for securing a third term as president next March when he scrapped a constitutional limit of two terms in 2018.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Mao Zedong

While Xi has consolidated power without precedent since Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic in 1949, there has been no sign he will adopt the title of party chairman.

The first two Chinese leaders to succeed Mao, Hua Guofeng and Hu Yaobang, had the chairman title. It has not been used since 1982.

(Photograph:AFP)
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Li Keqian

Li, who as premier oversees the world's second-largest economy, will step down from that role in March, as dictated by China's constitution, after 10 years in the number two position.

However, Li may not exit politics altogether.

At 67, he is younger than Xi and below the unofficial retirement age for Chinese leaders at his level.

Some analysts point to Li's increased public presence this year as a sign that he may stay on in the Standing Committee, possibly as parliament chief, China's third-highest office, a precedent set by Li Peng in 1998 after stepping down as premier.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Wang Yang

Leading candidates include:

- Wang Yang, 67, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body, which puts him at 4th rank on the PSC. He was previously a vice premier and the party chief of the southern, economic powerhouse province of Guangdong.

- Hu Chunhua, 59, currently one of four vice premiers and also a former party chief of Guangdong.

-Chen Min’er, 61, current Chongqing party secretary, considered a Xi protégé.

Whoever it is, the next premier is widely expected to follow in Li's footsteps in faithfully toeing a line set by Xi.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Politburo Standing Committee

The Politburo Standing Committee is expected to remain at seven members. Xi reduced it from the nine members under his immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Under the unofficial "7-up, 8-down rule," PSC members who are 68 or older retire during the party congress, meaning parliamentary chief Li Zhanshu and ranking Vice Premier Han Zheng, 71 and 68 respectively, would be due to step down.

(Photograph:AFP)

Sun Chunlan

Unlikely. There has never been a woman on the PSC, and the only woman currently in the 25-member politburo, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, 72, is expected to retire.

Shen Yiqin, the 62-year-old party chief of Guizhou province in southwestern China, is one of the few female candidates with potential to be elevated to the next Politburo.

(Photograph:AFP)