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.
Expansion of Central Committee secretariat may reflect ethnic unrest
The expansion of the Communist Party's executive body from six to seven members may be due to the increasing importance of ethnic issues, analysts say.
The Central Committee secretariat, headed by new Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan , handles the daily operations of the Politburo.
The inclusion of Sichuan party boss Liu Qibao , expected to head the party's publicity department, and Shaanxi party boss Zhao Leji , tipped to head its organisation department, was to be expected. Two other newcomers - Zhejiang party boss Zhao Hongzhu , representing the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and Li Zhanshu , of the Central Committee's general office - have also been included.
However, what stood out for analysts was the naming of Du Qinglin and Yang Jing in the line-up. Du, 66, is a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and former head of the party's United Front Work Department. Yang, 59, is head of State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
Hong Kong-based commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the expanded secretariat was the result of the downsizing of the Politburo Standing Committee from nine members to seven.
"The role of United Front Work is being highlighted in the secretariat because new targets have been identified, such as talent in private and foreign corporations as well as self-employed professionals such as famous authors," Lau said.
He suggested the naming of Du and Yang was aimed at intensifying research into and implementation of the Central Committee's ethnic minorities policy, particularly in the wake of violent protests in Xinjiang and Tibet in the past five years.
Professor Gu Su , from Nanjing University, said that putting Du and Yang in the secretariat gave it powerful figures to head united front work.
"Putting Du here would extend his retirement age," Gu said. "It looks like a decision made by [new party general secretary] Xi Jinping himself to arrange for Yang Jing to be there to back up Du."
The inclusion of Yang, a Mongol, would also keep a member of an ethnic minority in a senior position after the retirement of Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu , of the Hui ethnic group.