China Commences Communist Party Congress in Beijing

By Faith Magbanua, October 19, 2017 00:10 AM


Known as China's biggest political event of the year, the Communist Party Congress has officially begun in Beijing on Wednesday and is under tight security.

President Xi Jinping addressed more than 2,000 delegates in the capital for more than three hours in the beginning of the summit.

The closed-door summit, which takes place once every five years, will determine on who will rule China and the country's direction for the next term.

President Xi, who became the leader in 2012, has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief after the congress.

Communist Party Congress

Known today as the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (commonly referred to as Shíjiǔ Dà; Chinese: 十九大),  the"closed-door" summit will be held in Beijing, People's Republic of China, opening on 18 October 2017.

As an "odd-year" congress - the previous was held in 2012 - the congress is closely observed mostly due to a far-reaching change in the makeup of the top leadership of the Communist Party of China. Almost 75% of the Politburo Standing Committee (top decision-making body) is expected to retire or be replaced at this congress.

The congress is also seen as a test of President Xi Jinping's authority within the party and whether he will break party rules regarding political tenure and promotion.

The party delegates at the congress will elect the new leadership of the Communist Party of China by the elite, including the Central Committee and alternate members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. During the meeting of new Central Committee, the elections of General Secretary (party leader), Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee and Central Military Commission will be held.

The congress will also decide on a roadmap for China for the next five years and expected to finish next week.

Shortly after the congress ends, the party is expected to reveal the new members of China's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who will steer the country.

In his speech, President Xi listed China's recent achievements, saying that "socialism with Chinese characteristics in this new era" meant China had "become a great power in the world". He also added that the country should not copy foreign political systems.

Xi Jinping is a much more confident leader than his predecessors. In a long and poised speech, he even looked back on his first five years in office, saying that the party had achieved miracles and China's international standing had grown.

But the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence. Recently, state media has talked about the crisis and chaos in western democracies compared to strength and unity in China.

Today, Xi Jinping said he would not copy foreign political systems and that the communist party must oppose anything that would undermine its leadership of China.

Xi also mentioned his wide-reaching corruption crackdown within the Party that has punished more than a million officials, reported by BBC correspondents in Beijing.

However, the capital is also on high alert. Long lines were seen earlier this week at railway stations due to additional checks at transport hubs.

The congress has also affected businesses, with some restaurants, gyms, nightclubs and karaoke bars reportedly shutting down due to tightened security rules.

However, an austerity drive, instituted by President Xi, has meant a more pared down congress, with Chinese reports this week of delegates' hotels cutting back on frills such as decorations, free fruits in rooms and lavish meals.

Meanwhile, state media reports have said the Party is expected to rewrite its constitution to include Xi's "work report" or political thoughts, which would elevate him to the status of previous Party giants, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

While some see President Xi as a person who gains more power than any leader since Mao, the congress will be watched closely for clues on how much control now rests in the hands of just one man.

Since becoming president, Xi has tightened control within the Party and also in Chinese society, with increasing censorship and arrests of lawyers and activists.

Under President Xi, China's modernization and reform has also accelerated, as has its assertiveness on the world stage.

He continues to enjoy extensive support among the ordinary citizens in China.


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