5 things to know about China’s twice-a-decade party congress
BEIJING (AP) — The crucial parts are being held behind closed doors, but journalists, academics and more than a billion Chinese citizens are closely watching for any public hints signaling change at this week’s twice-a-decade congress of China’s ruling Communist Party.
Possible outcomes include the emergence of President Xi Jinping’s closest allies, signs indicating the direction of an increasingly aggressive foreign policy and clues about the possible next leader of the world’s second-biggest economy.
Five things to watch for:
SIGNS OF XI’S POWER
Observers are watching to see if Xi’s personal political theory will be entered into the party constitution alongside those of predecessors such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
Xi’s wide-ranging, almost 3 1/2-hour address to the congress’ opening session Wednesday made no clear statement on that matter. But repeated references to “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” — including in the speech’s somewhat cumbersome title — pointed in that direction.
One section talked of “arming the whole party with the thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” — placing the concept in the framework of the “thoughts” and “theories” associated with previous leaders.
Another key indicator will be whether Xi’s name is included in the concept’s formal title if it is inserted into the party constitution. That would elevate him to the ranks of Mao and Deng, above his immediate predecessors who received no such distinction when their own theories were entered into the constitution’s list of guiding philosophies at the end of their terms.
Including the “thought” along with Xi’s name this early in his term would be a clear sign that the already powerful leader will continue to dominate Chinese politics.
POWERFUL PLAYERS WILL EMERGE
Perhaps the most immediate results of the congress will be the distribution of new jobs, rumors about which have swirled for months.
The meetings are cloaked in secrecy, but Xi has spent five years sidelining his rivals, so the recipients will be allies.
While Xi and his No. 2, Premier Li Keqiang, are expected to stay on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee that runs China, four others will likely depart. The status of party discipline boss and close Xi ally Wang Qishan seems unclear.
Chief among Xi’s allies are Chen Min’er, who was appointed this year to run the mega-city of Chongqing. Beijing party chief Cai Qi has also enjoyed rapid promotion under Xi. Key aides within the party, most notably chief of staff Li Zhanshu, are also tipped for higher office.
Companies and investors are watching to see what posts go to Xi allies regarded as reformers with the personal authority to push through painful changes over opposition from party factions or state companies that stand to lose influence.
Xi is 64 and may suggest a potential successor for when his traditional second five-year term as party leader ends.
The nation’s presidency is limited to two five-year terms, but the office of party general secretary is bound by no such restrictions.
Xi could step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from behind the scenes.
STRONGER FOREIGN POLICY
Xi has been steadily channeling Chinese nationalism and pride as he boosts the Communist Party’s role in Chinese life and his country’s presence in Asia and the world.
The muscular approach is likely to get even stronger after the congress. Xi will try to gradually expand China’s influence by continuing to leverage the nation’s booming economy and mountain of foreign currency holdings.
The goal is to restore China to its traditional role as East Asia’s leading nation and a global economic and cultural force.
Beijing could push to expand its role in international bodies and become more assertive in regional hot spots such as the South and East China Seas and its contested border with India.
Observers will pore over the text of Xi’s long address for clues on the direction of the world’s second-largest economy.
Xi affirmed plans that call for developing state-owned companies that dominate industries including finance, energy and telecoms while also giving the market the “decisive role” in allocating resources.
He said Beijing “must develop the public sector,” a goal that reform advocates complain wastes public money and further slows economic growth.
And he confirmed official pledges to make the banking industry more market-oriented and to shrink bloated state-owned steel and coal industries.
Xi also vowed that the party would have “zero tolerance” for corruption and exhorted members to resist “pleasure seeking, inaction, sloth and problem avoidance.”