China’s 20th Party Congress
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Attendants stand near a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing Exhibition Centre, ahead of the 20th Communist Party Congress. Photo: AFP

Closing date announced for China’s 20th Communist Party congress

  • The crucial political meeting is to run for a week from Sunday, with the new leadership line-up expected to be revealed a day later
  • This year’s congress will see a number of retirements, making way for a crop of promotions to the top echelons of power
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The new leadership line-up of China’s ruling Communist Party will be unveiled next Sunday, a day after its twice-a-decade national congress wraps up on October 22.

While Xi Jinping appears set to receive an unprecedented third term as the paramount party leader, there will be sweeping changes in other senior positions.

Nearly half the seats on the Central Committee are going to change hands. Some of the members of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee – the highest decision-making body – are also expected to be replaced.

It will mark a new era under Xi’s leadership as he will have a free hand to build a supporting cast around him for the next five years.

The reshuffle will only be completed next March at the annual parliamentary sessions after changes in key government posts are confirmed – such as who will take over from Li Keqiang as the new premier.

But the congress that starts this week will already offer clear clues when they announce the line-up and the new party hierarchy.

Spokesman Sun Yeli, the party’s deputy propaganda chief, delivered the first confirmation of the crucial political meeting’s dates at a press conference on Saturday. The duration will be similar to the six previous congresses.

“The 20th party congress will open at 10’o clock tomorrow at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. It will be held from October 16 to October 22,” he said.

Sun said a preparatory meeting for the congress was held on Saturday afternoon, setting the agenda for the gathering.

The main items on the list are the adoption of an amendment to the party’s constitution, a review of the report of the 19th Communist Party Central Committee, and the election of the members of the 20th Central Committee and the 20th party Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

This year’s congress will see a number of retirements, making way for a crop of promotions. Some who are already in key positions could be given more important portfolios, while younger faces may start positioning themselves for leadership roles in the years to come.

Sun said the first plenary session of the 20th Central Committee and the first session of the 20th CCDI would be held after the conclusion of the congress.

When the first plenary session is over, the members of the newly elected Politburo Standing Committee will meet the media.

Sun said China had introduced more than 2,000 reform programmes over the past decade, from food, housing, and transport to education, health and pensions.

“Systemic” reforms had been carried out in key areas including party and state institutions, national defence and the military, and party building.

“Reforms are only works in progress. We will adhere to the right direction of reform, maintain determination, and keep pushing forward with greater political courage and wisdom,” he said.

President and party leader Xi Jinping, who also heads the CMC, will deliver a work report to 2,296 delegates from around the country in the Great Hall of the People on Sunday.

The delegates will choose the new Central Committee – the party’s inner circle of power – based on a shortlist of candidates provided by the party leadership. Delegates are also expected to be divided into sub groups for discussions during the week-long gathering.

Xi briefed the roughly 370 full and alternate members of the outgoing Central Committee on the work report’s details at the start of its seventh plenum last Sunday, the final major gathering of the party’s elite ahead of the congress.

Xi briefs Communist Party inner circle in countdown to landmark congress

Wang Huning, the ideology tsar who is about to retire from the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, also explained the plan to amend the party’s constitution, a revision that is expected to further elevate Xi’s position in the party and consolidate his policy legacy.

A report on the plenum from state news agency Xinhua said the congress would review the party’s achievements of the past five years and “thoroughly study international and domestic trends”.

A meeting of the 25-strong Politburo in late August agreed the event would “mobilise the party and the country” to continue Xi’s signature policies, an official statement said.

These include “common prosperity”, a strategy to narrow the country’s wealth gap, and “the building of a community with a shared future for mankind”, a term that refers to expanding Beijing’s global status.

Additional reporting by Echo Xie