China: 18th party congress meeting to mark leadership change

Updated On: Nov 06, 2012

China’s Communist Party has concluded a meeting of top officials over the weekend, the last before the upcoming leadership change. The party officially expelled former high-flying politicians Bo Xilai and Liu Zhijun. The move comes ahead of the Communist Party’s congress which starts on Thursday, where Vice-President Xi Jinping and his team are expected to take over from President Hu Jintao’s government.

CPC Central Committee meeting

The four-day Seventh Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded on Sunday in Beijing. This closed-door meeting was the last before the party congress and leadership change.

Altogether 200 members and 165 alternate members of the CPC Central Committee attended the meeting. Presiding was President Hu Jintao, who delivered a work report.

Among noteworthy decisions: the party endorsed the expulsion of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai and former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun from the Communist Party. Mr Xilai is accused of a range of misdeeds including covering up his wife’s murder of a British businessman, while Mr Liu faces corruption charges.

The body also approved final preparations for the party’s upcoming congress. The leadership transition takes place as slowing economic growth in China is creating public ill feelings over corruption, social injustice and policies that favor state-run companies and the elite over private enterprise and ordinary citizens.

The Central Committee applauded its performance over the past five years. “Faced with a complicated international environment and an arduous task of stable reform and development, the entire party under General Secretary Hu Jintao ... withstood the test of all types of difficulties and risks.”

It said the economy had grown stably and rapidly, there had been major progress on reform and opening-up, and people’s living conditions had improved remarkably.

Transition in China

On Thursday, 8 November, a once-in-a-decade political shift takes place in Beijing as the ruling Communist Party opens its 18th congress.

Seven of the nine Politburo Standing Committee members will retire because of their age and term limits. Of the remaining two, Vice-President Xi Jinping, 59, is set to replace Mr Hu Jintao, 70, as President next March. Mr Li Keqiang, 57, is expected to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao, also 70.

Expected to last about a week, the congress will gather more than 2,000 Party delegates from across China in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, the symbolic centre of communist power.

Selecting new leaders

The main task for delegates will be to select a new Central Committee, made up of about 200 people.

The Central Committee then appoints a Politburo of 25 members and the powerful Central Military Commission, controlling the nation's armed forces.

The Committee will also appoint the elite Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest decision-making body, comprising seven to nine members chosen from within the Politburo.

In theory, the delegates are electing China's next generation of leaders. However, there are no laws that govern the selection of leaders. This leaves the matter of determining China’s top leaders entirely up to the Party's internal logic and internal politics.

The appointments for senior posts are reportedly decided on by top party leaders and retired officials in a bargaining process, and elections are only held after congressional delegates indicate that they will vote for the pre-chosen candidates.

Report: China’s ruling Communist elite endorse Bo Xilai’s expulsion, approve plans for congress [The Washington Post, 5 Nov 2012]

Report: Generational change on hold [South China Morning Post, 5 Nov 2012]

Report: A Point Of View: Is China more legitimate than the West? [BBC News, 2 Nov 2012]