On the 18th of October 2017 the five-yearly Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will begin. During this congress the direction of policy for the next five years will be set, and the new Party leadership will be selected.
The Congress is closely watched by observers of China, because it will predict the course the country will take in the coming years. It will also show the power balance within the party and the security of current president Xi Jinping’s position. Normally a president serves 10 years, divided in two terms of 5 years. Xi is now halfway there. The Congress is seen as an estimation of how successful his first term has been, and how much of the Party supports his agenda.
During the Congress, new members of the Politburo will be appointed. Who gets appointed is a sign of the dynamics within the Party. Because many current members will most likely retire, this creates a chance for Xi to see those positions filled by his supporters. That would give him a majority of allies, further enlarging his power.
Seeing who gets appointed to what position is also a sign of Xi’s plans concerning his own career. Some observers suspect that Xi is planning to stay on for a third term, which would break Party traditions. However, if he does not plan a third term for himself, his prospective successor will be appointed head of the Party Secretariat. There are two candidates most likely to be appointed: Guangdong Party Secretary Hu Chunhua and Chongqing Party Secretary Chen Min’er.
Although Hu Chunhua is already a member of the Politburo and has long been regarded as a future leader, his position is more uncertain after the recent fall of Sun Zhengcai, the former Party Secretary of Chongqing. Sun was also seen as a possible candidate for leadership, but was suddenly removed from office in July and is now under investigation for “serious violations of discipline”. His replacement as Chongqing Party Secretary is none other than Chen Min’er, who is Xi’s protégé. This makes Chen a strong favourite for succession, and shows how Xi is trying to strengthen his own position in the Party and his control of the process.
Another topic that is closely watched is whether the Party Constitution will be amended to include Xi’s own guiding ideological doctrine. That the constitution will be amended is certain, as announced by Chinese state media, but the question is whether Xi’s contribution to the Party constitution will carry his name (like the Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory) or whether it won’t have his name attached, like his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin’s contributions. If Xi’s name is attached, this would place him on the same level as Mao and Deng, and be an indication of the extent of his power.
What are the likely outcomes from the 19th Party Congress? How will decisions made here impact China’s development and the world?
On the 16th of October the LeidenAsiaCentre will organise a public workshop to create a larger understanding of the current events leading up to the Party Congress. The panelists are experts on East-Asian politics, and the programme will be as follows:
Dr. Lindsay Black (Leiden University): Introduction
Prof. Frank Pieke (Leiden University): Perspective of the Chinese Communist Party
Dr. Jue Wang (Leiden University): Political economy perspective
Prof. Dr. Jörn-Carsten Gottwald (Ruhr-University Bochum): International relations perspective
There will be time for questions afterwards.
To participate, please register by sending an e-mail to email@example.com