Congress date set; new team lined up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am

Mid-October start for party's key meeting

The Communist Party will start its 17th National Congress in Beijing on October 15, party leaders announced yesterday, and hinted strongly they had reached consensus on a new leadership lineup and key policies.

The decision was made yesterday at a Politburo meeting chaired by President Hu Jintao , Xinhua reported. The party's Central Committee will hold a plenary meeting a week before the congress to set the agenda for the meeting.

The party meeting will decide its new leaders and is a big opportunity for Mr Hu, its general secretary, to further consolidate power and set policy goals for the coming five years.

'All preparatory work for the congress is progressing smoothly and should be continued earnestly to ensure a successful congress,' Xinhua reported, quoting the Politburo.

'The meeting said that the ... congress is a very important meeting to be held at a time when China has entered a key stage of reform and development,' said the report.

The announcement cleared up months of speculation over the date of the meeting and suggested strongly that a new leadership lineup had been agreed upon.

Mr Hu is expected during the congress to install allies, push rivals aside and lay out priorities for his next five years in power, analysts say.

Sources said the congress would endorse a leadership with Mr Hu, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-President Zeng Qinghong at its core, and seal the retirement of some members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the top organ of power. Wu Guanzheng , 69, in charge of party discipline, and Luo Gan , 72, in charge of law enforcement, will stand down, having passed retirement age.

Normally nine strong, it was left with eight members when vice-premier Huang Ju died in June.

To smooth the transfer of power from the fourth generation of leaders, headed by Mr Hu, to the next, the congress will determine candidates to succeed him as general secretary.

Sources said the party secretary of Liaoning , Li Keqiang , an ally of Mr Hu, was almost certain to be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee. Other possible candidates include Jiangsu party secretary Li Yuanchao , Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang and Yu Zhengsheng , the Hubei party chief.

Overseas media have speculated that Wang Zhaoguo , a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Wang Gang , director of the Central Committee's General Office, will be promoted to the Standing Committee.

Two municipal party secretaries - Xi Jinping of Shanghai and Zhang Gaoli of Tianjin - are expected to become Politburo members.

According to Xinhua, a report by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will be submitted to the Central Committee ahead of the Congress. It is expected to spell out the leadership's verdict on former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu , who is likely to face trial for corruption.

The Xinhua report contained few details, but it did say that the Congress would 'hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, be guided by Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thoughts of [Jiang Zemin's Theory of the] 'Three Represents', and thoroughly carry out the scientific concept of development.'

The description puts Mr Hu on the same level as Deng and Mr Jiang, his predecessor as party chief, and appears to show the congress will adopt the current leader's 'scientific concept of development', cementing his place in party history.