Saturday, October 13, 2007

What you need to know about China's Communist Party Congress

Fri, 10/12/2007 - 1:25pm.
by David Francis

The 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress gets underway on Monday, October 15. The congress, which occurs every five years, is China's most important and most public political event. This year's congress takes on additional significance, considering China's economic and military growth in recent years. Here's what you need to know:

* Delegates to the congress endorse policies that will guide China over the next five years. Senior party officials are also promoted or demoted at the congress.
* The nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo—the strongest political body in China—will be reshuffled. Chinese President Hu Jintao's successor will likely emerge from this group.
* Most policies that will be endorsed at the congress have been decided well in advance, so expect no public disagreements.
* Hu has stated that the goals of the congress are to "promote social harmony" and create policies to spread wealth and build a "well-off society," as well as to spur "scientific development."
* About 2,200 delegates are attending. They are mainly senior party figures, but 30 percent come from outside of the Chinese political establishment.
* The congress takes place in Tiananmen Square's Great Hall of the People, although some events will occur at other venues.

What will the end result be? There's been plenty of speculation, but no one will really know who's moving up in the party and what plans Hu has until the end of the congress. Hu may consolidate his position of power at the expense of supporters of former President Jiang Zemin. But don't expect any dramatic changes after the congress. Because all decisions are negotiated beforehand in order to present a unified front, a few personnel changes won't make that much of an impact on China's overall strategic direction. Still, it will be interesting to see what plans Hu has for China over the next five years, and who emerges as the frontrunner to replace him.

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