China’s 20th Party Congress
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The Communist Party’s national congress is expected to confirm an unprecedented third term for Chinese President Xi Jinping as the party’s paramount leader. Photo: TNS

China’s Xi Jinping briefs Communist Party inner circle in countdown to landmark national congress

  • Central Committee members given an overview of changes to be ushered in at five-yearly gathering
  • Meeting is the clearest sign that all the key decisions on personnel and party charter revisions have been completed
China’s twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle has entered the final stage of preparation with hundreds of senior Communist Party officials gathering in Beijing on Sunday for their final briefing before the national congress.
At the start of the so-called seventh plenum, President Xi Jinping briefed all of the roughly 370 full and alternate members of the Central Committee – the party’s inner circle of power – on the work report he will deliver when the congress gets under way next weekend.
Wang Huning, the ideology tsar and Xi’s colleague in the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, also explained to the Central Committee members the plan to revise the party’s charter, a revision that is expected to further elevate Xi’s position in the party and consolidate his policy legacy.

The seventh plenum of the Central Committee is the last major gathering of the top elite before the all-important party congress, which is expected to confirm an unprecedented third term for Xi as the party’s paramount leader as well as introduce sweeping changes at the top. The president is going to use the occasion to change his major supporting cast and build a new team for the next five years.


Explainer: What is the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th national congress?

Explainer: What is the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th national congress?

All the decisions are made behind closed doors and the process to prepare for the changes started months ago.

In Chinese politics, the real decisions are often made before the formal meeting, which mainly serves to legitimise and tell others about the result.

The top leadership will use the congress to explain the decisions to a wider circle and the delegates in turn will endorse the outcomes in a formal vote.

The delegates will also serve as important conduits to spread the message back in their respective constituencies.

Each plenum normally lasts for four days and the beginning of the seventh on Sunday is the clearest sign that all the key decisions regarding the personnel changes and party charter revisions have been completed and are ready for communication.

When the Central Committee members gather again at the party congress, they will be joined by more than 2,000 delegates from across the country.

Apart from the personnel changes and party charter revision, the congress will also confirm the overall policy strategy for the next five years and beyond.

A report by the party’s top anti-corruption body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is also going to be discussed during the seventh plenum and submitted to the congress.

The party convenes a congress every five years and this year’s event, the 20th, will see changes at the top, with many incumbents set for retirement.

The gathering is also expected to endorse a third five-year term as the party’s general secretary for 69-year-old Xi, who is already considered the most powerful political leader in China since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

In addition, the party congress will set out China’s development goals and major policies for at least the next five years as the country seeks to basically achieve socialist modernisation by 2035, according to Xi’s remarks to key officials during a study session in July.

The congress comes as China is facing a complex external environment including its intensifying rivalry with the United States, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Domestically, the government is grappling with a sharp downturn in economic growth partially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and facing concerns over its continued adherence to its strict zero-Covid policy.

In an article published last weekend in the party journal Qiushi, Xi called on the party to focus on its “historical mission” and prepare for “great struggles” ahead.

Xi said the country “has never been closer” to achieving its great national rejuvenation, but the last mile would be full of perils and challenges.