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The 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress: Everything You Need To Know

Jalil Javed and Henry Kincaid-

The 19th Communist Party Congress comes at an important time for China; this will see the return of the president of the country, Xi Jinping, attempt to further strengthen his position, and will likely be the occasion in which plans are drawn up to extend the normal ten-year presidential term limit. If the limit is extended, or simply removed, it will give Jinping more than enough time to consolidate his position as one of the most powerful people in the world, even more so than he’s done already. Jinping is often regarded as being the strongest leader China has possessed in decades, and, as the head of 1.3 billion people, one of the strongest world leaders too.

With 2,287 delegates attending the event, up from the 13 delegates that arrived at the original Congress, this event is likely to be the most significant China will hold this year.

How The Congress Works 

The 2,287, carefully picked delegates that arrive at the event will choose officials from the 205-member Central Committee, all for the purpose of those Central Committee members voting for who will become part of the 24/25-member Politburo, including the heads of the Politburo, the Standing Committee.

On top of voting, the Congress’ Politburo meeting is intended to be a chance for China’s ruling elite to establish where the country will be heading in the next few years, setting up goals and intentions for the next half-decade.

 

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China’s new Standing Committee (Aly Song/Reuters)

 

A “New Era” Of Communism

The main message of the Congress was that Communism, or Maoism, was entering a “New Era”, and that the classical interpretations of Chinese Communists would soon become defunct. They made this commitment to the world in the form of four-year development plans, to which they say they are strongly committed.

The Congress has formally adopted the ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, and the ideology will be written into the party’s Manifesto. This new form of Socialism under Xi Jin Ping will be the latest interpretation of Marxism to be used. The new ‘Theory’ will come after ‘Marxism-Leninism Theory’, ‘Mao Zedong Thought’, and ‘Deng Xiaoping Theory’ as a forward to the rest of the constitution, acting as an introduction in which the ethos of the country will be established.

The New Leadership, Xi, Is Here To Stay

One thing that we learned from this Congress is that its leader, Xi Jinping, is here to stay. This became clear after the Congress did not reveal any obvious successor to him as the leader of the communist party.

Xi was announced to become the new president back in the 2007 Congress, and became president during the 2012 event. With no successor announced during this year’s ceremony, and with 2017 also marking the start of Jinping’s second term, it appears that the current president may end up serving longer than the ten-year standard term length. If Xi was to seek a third term, the current president would be breaking current rules that state a president can only serve two terms, however; with what some would call a ‘cult of personality’ growing around the head of state, it is quite possible that this law would be ammended to allow Xi to continue to serve if he so wished.

The Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) has an obligatory retirement age policy, forcing members of the Committee to stand down after they reach the age of 68. Due to this policy, a close political ally to Xi, Wang Qishan, has exited the Committee. Rumours had it that Xi had been looking to bend the rules in order to allow Qishan to retain his position in the Politburo, however; this appears to either have not been the case, or that Xi’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

 

The Politburo’s leading members are all aged in their sixties, regardless of the rule that would force them to step down in only a few of years’ time.

The Standing Committee members are as follows:

  • Xi Jinping, 64, President since 2012
  • Li Keqiang, 62, Premier since 2013
  • Li Zhanshu, 67, Head of the Parliament
  • Wang Yang, 62, Executive Vice Premier
  • Wang Huning, 62, Director of the Policy Research Office
  • Zhao Leji, 60, Head of anti-corruption agency
  • Han Zheng, 63, Shanghai Party Chief

 

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President Xi Jinping arriving for his speech (Ng Han Guan/AP)

 

The New And Updated CPC Ideals

This new part of the Manifesto titled ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ describes the principle of the CPC’s role in governing day-to-day life in the country.

Some of these principles include:

  • A call for “complete and deep reform” and “new developing ideas”.
  • A promise of “harmonious living between man and nature” – this is a call for improved environmental conservation, and could also refer to the stated aim to have the bulk of China’s energy needs supplied by renewables.
  • An emphasis on “absolute authority of the party over the people’s army” – which comes amid what analysts call the largest turnover of senior military officials in modern Chinese history.
  • An emphasis on the importance of “‘one country two systems” and reunification with the motherland – a clear reference to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

 

The Future of China 

With China’s presence on the global stage ever-growing, and with social media becoming more accessible and widespread, both internationally and in China, the Communist country’s future is likely to be more generally impactful than ever.

The previous point is extended further when factoring in Jinping’s own ethos behind China’s destiny. With a stance that arguably resembles a more militaristic, authoritarian form of Social Liberalism than traditional Communism, Jinping’s policies are likely to appear far less alien to much of the outside world, potentially making them just that much more influential.

It appears that old Communist China is officially gone, replaced with a far more public, seemingly more reasonable upheaval of the old ideals, however; with China’s authoritarian, heavily propagandist nature still intact, with the country reaching new heights when it comes to international influence, and with the state still maintaining what amounts to a monopoly over many sectors of business, the country has arguably never been more dangerously important.

Featured Image Credits: AFP

 

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