The overseas edition of the official People's Daily ran an article yesterday saying the 18th party congress would take place in the second half of the year, and that preparations were going smoothly.
The article followed recent overseas reports that the Communist Party might postpone its once-in-a-decade power reshuffle, scheduled to take place at the congress, from the autumn to the winter.
Central committee party leaders had demanded that the election of congress delegates be finished by the end of June, the article said. Party branches from 31 mainland provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions will put forward 2,270 delegates. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau will not send delegates.
By yesterday, 19 provincial-level branches had released a preliminary list of candidates, and the preparation work had followed instructions issued by Beijing as early as November, which included calls to increase the number of delegates who are labourers, engineers and women.
As is common in the lead-up to such congresses every five years, the party mouthpiece stayed vague on the exact timing of the meeting.
The coming congress will decide the make-up of the Politburo Standing Committee, as seven of the nine members are stepping down.
It had been widely anticipated that the meeting would be held in September or October, but rumours last week said it might be postponed to sometime between November and January, with senior party members suspected of having not reached a consensus on the new leaders, with the exceptions of Vice-President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who are in line to succeed President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Differences among senior party members were said to have ranged from their choice of candidates to the size of the Standing Committee, which basically runs the country.
The People's Daily article said the make-up of congress members was likely to be more diverse than the slate picked in 2007. It praised Guangdong, for example, for raising its proportion of candidates who are labourers from 4 to 10 per cent. Jiangsu increased its proportion of female candidates by 16 per cent.
General Guo Boxiong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, said during an inspection tour to several military regions last week that the army would ensure the successful opening of the congress, according to Xinhua.
Jiangsu has increased the proportion of female delegates to this year's party congress by this much