President Xi Jinping will use the event to consolidate his grip on powerby George Magnus / October 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
On the western side of Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People will this week be the setting for the formal proceedings of the 19th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The event, held every five years, isn’t normally of huge interest outside China. But this one is generating more attention than usual. This time is different.
For a start, China’s footprint in the global economy is now bigger than ever. The country has been gifted a global role by President Trump that its leaders couldn’t have imagined a year ago: it is central to resolving tensions on the Korean peninsula, and president Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative is attracting a lot of attention. Earlier this year, for example, the UK’s interest was drawn to it by the arrival of the first ever freight train service from Yiwu, about 180 miles south of Shanghai, to London Gateway Terminal.
The real reasons that this Congress is significant, though, are all to do with Chinese politics, and the implications for the power of President Xi Jinping.
The main business of the Congress is political. Numerous lengthy reports, prepared and approved over many months, will be read and recited, and there will be a look back at the achievements of the last five years, along with a broad overview of political, economic and social objectives over the coming five-year term.
Away from this, some 2,300 delegates will choose just over 200 members of the Central Committee—a body which comprises senior figures in the Communist Party—to replace those who have reached the age limit of 68, and several who have been detained on corruption charges. The Committee will fill 11 vacancies on the politburo, from which members of the Politburo Standing Committee will be chosen. The considerable interest in these latter members derives from their eligibility to be the next top leaders in 2022, and from the insight offered into who’s in Xi’s closest entourage. This time, people are also curious to see if the signals about the next leaders are clear, or if not, whether this means Xi has designs to stay in power for longer than the normal two terms.
What most China watchers are interested in, though, is the opportunity Xi Jinping will take to stamp his…