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Oct 18, 2017: 19th Communist Party Congress to seal Xi Jinping’s grip on China?

CHINA - The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convenes its 19th Congress in Beijing to present decisions taken at recent closed-door conclaves on the country’s future leadership and direction. President Xi Jinping is reported to be seeking his own advancement.

The role of the gathering, which is held every five years and brings together some 2,300 Party delegates from across the country, is to elect the 200-member Central Committee and approve the Party’s agenda for the next five years. It follows high-echelon CCP meetings in mid August 2016.

The CCP’s 7-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the springboard for the next generation of Chinese leaders, and promotion to the body at the Congress is a significant indication of who is in contention. Xi’s chances of increasing his signature crackdown on corruption and in the pace of reforms to the economy lie in the composition of the post-Congress PSC.

Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Prime Minister Li Keqiang are expected to keep their jobs until the 20th Congress. The South China Morning Post expects Xi to reinstate the chairmanship of the party, which could give him more authority. Mao Zedong occupied the chairmanship until his death, and the title of general party secretary subsequently became the party’s highest – a position Xi currently holds. Reinstating the chairmanship could give Xi greater authority over other members of the PSC and the same veto power held by Mao, according to Post sources.

The Post sees the party reiterating its commitment to the transition towards a market-based economy. The transition involves reducing structural imbalances, reforming the corporate and public sectors and liberalising the capital market. The publication also sees a more assertive stance in the South China Sea emerging from the Congress.

Of burning interest in the whole region and beyond is whether the extensive reforms Xi has introduced in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to extend its reach beyond China’s borders – and out into the South China Sea – will also extend its grasp. Some 2.3 million PLA troops serve on the ground, in the air and on the high seas.


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