18th Party Congress
The Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress, held in Beijing November 8-14, 2012, marked a key power transition in China. A new generation of leaders, headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, took over from the previous leadership headed by Hu Jintao. The Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee was reduced in number from nine to seven. Unlike his predecessor Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao handed over both the Party General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission positions to Xi.
'Sparta' a good foil for Communist Party congress critics
The ancient Greek city state of Sparta has given mainlanders an innovative way of venting their discontent over the Communist Party's 18th national congress without being snared by the online police.
The Chinese word for Sparta, which sounds similar to the shorthand name of the congress (shi ba da), has become a catchword for netizens when referring to the over-the-top security in Beijing and the barrage of pre-congress propaganda.
Sparta has also gained currency because some have likened the preparations to the 2008 parody film Meet the Spartans, a spin-off of the 2007 Hollywood blockbuster 300.
"I've almost gone Sparta (collapsed)!" has become one phrase commonly used online.
Some have said that referring to the party congress as Sparta in cyberspace is justified by the similarity between the political system depicted in 300 and the authoritarian, one-party state. The film's catchphrase, "this is Sparta!", has become "this is the 18th party congress!".
Security preparations were put into overdrive weeks ahead of the congress, including a ban on the sale of kitchen knives.
While discussion of the party congress on social media sites has been strictly policed, with searches for "18th congress" yielding no results, internet users have still been able to get around the censors by using euphemistic references linked to ancient legends and fables.