China’s 20th Party Congress
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More than 2,000 delegates will attend the Communist Party’s 20th congress, which gets under way on October 16. Photo: EPA-EFE

Countdown to China’s Communist Party congress enters final stages with release of delegate list

  • More than 2,000 people to attend pivotal political event to start on October 16
  • List contains few surprises, a message to the country and the world that the leadership transition is under control, analyst says

Preparations for the Chinese Communist Party’s national congress next month are in their final stages, with the release of the names of more than 2,000 delegates to the event.

“Each electoral unit across the country convened a party congress or party representative meeting and elected 2,296 delegates to the 20th party congress,” state broadcaster CCTV said on Sunday.

The congress will get under way on October 16 and is expected to mark the start of President Xi Jinping’s third term as the party’s leader.

There are also other signs that preparations are gathering pace – Beijing is tightening its security and Covid-19 control measures, and Tiananmen Square and the capital’s main thoroughfare have been decorated with big flower arrangements and huge banners that read, “We joyfully welcome the 20th party congress”.

The twice-in-a-decade congress will see a major shuffle of the party’s top leadership for the next five years and amend the party charter, which is expected to further raise Xi’s personal status.

State-run Xinhua news agency said the selection of delegates was guided by “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, the political philosophy of the president that is enshrined in the state’s constitution and party charter.

Xi has “personally deployed” the selection of the delegates and has heard multiple reports on the progress, a spokesperson with the Central Organisation Department, the party’s organ to oversee cadre selection, told Xinhua on Monday.

When they convene in Beijing next month, the delegates will choose members of the party’s Central Committee. And the full members of the Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its Standing Committee, the power centre of the ruling party.

A count by the South China Morning Post shows the female representation has increased 3 percentage points to 27 per cent, or 619 in total, while ethnic minority delegates, (264 in total) account for around 12 per cent – about the same as the previous party congress.

The list contains very few surprises. It includes all members of the Politburo, the Central Military Commission and top military officials in charge of theatre commands and commanding various services, regional party chiefs and governors, top secretaries in charge of major party apparatuses – including discipline, security, propaganda and personnel – ministers and party chiefs of ministries and the top legislative and political advisory bodies.

It also includes officials who are over retirement age and expected to soon step down.

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Xi, who is also the party’s general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission – the top military commanding body – was elected a delegate at the party’s Guangxi regional congress in April, while Premier Li Keqiang was elected in Gansu.

The official list of delegates related to Hong Kong was also largely expected. It includes the director of the central government’s Hong Kong liaison office, Luo Huining, and three deputy directors, Chen Dong, Lu Xinning and Luo Yonggang, as well as the office’s secretary general Wang Songmiao and Zheng Yanxiong, director of Beijing’s Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong.

A few senior executives of major mainland state-owned enterprises in Hong Kong are in the Hong Kong delegation, including China Merchants Group chairman Miao Jianmin, China Resources Group chairman Wang Xiangming, Chen Yin, chairman of China Travel Service (Hong Kong) Limited and Sun Yu, chief executive of Bank of China Hong Kong.

Xia Baolong, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was earlier elected a congress delegate in Guangdong province.

Beijing’s top envoy to Macau, Zheng Xincong, and his deputy Zhang Rongshun have both been elected as representatives.

Most technology and science delegates are affiliated with state-owned institutions but there are also entrepreneurs from the private sector, such as Zhou Haijiang, founder of textile giant Hodo Group, who has been a party congress delegate since 2007.

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Zhang Xiaoming, who was formerly executive deputy director of the HKMAO and a member of the 19th Central Committee, was not elected as a representative to the 20th party congress, following his transfer in June to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a deputy secretary general.

Deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate Ying Yong was also absent from the list.

But precedent suggests that even people who are not congress delegates can be promoted to important jobs. Xi’s top aide Ding Xuexiang, was elected as an alternate member of the 18th Central Committee despite not being listed as a delegate to the 18th congress in 2012.

Professor Xie Maosong, a senior fellow at the Taihe Institute and a senior researcher at the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, said the largely expected delegation list was one way for the party to tell the country and the world that the transition for the next leadership team was “all under control”.

“The lead time of this announcement, the formation of the delegations, did not deviate from the norm. Also, all the key people are in the list of delegates. In fact, there is no news, but subtly the party is trying to tell people that no news is good news because the transition will be smooth,” Xie said.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said the list of delegates represented a “party consensus that has been reached ahead of the actual meeting”.

“The 20th party congress will just be largely a formality to endorse the party leadership’s decisions and directions, as the negotiations for key positions started way ahead of the congress and ended when it announced the date for the congress at the end of August. By now, the Politburo members should have a pretty clear idea of the upcoming reshuffle,” Wu said.

Additional reporting by Coco Feng