18th Party Congress Timing Still A Mystery

With the CCP’s 18th Party Congress and the unveiling of China’s next generation of leaders just weeks away, The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore reports that the delegates who are expected to attend have yet to receive a precise date:

“We have not had any official notice,” said Hou Fanfan, a doctor in Guangzhou, while Li Xiaoying, a professor from Tianjin, said: “We don’t know, sorry”.

Wang Zhixia, the Communist party committee secretary of a driving school in Jilin province, said there had been “no notice whatsoever” and that he was waiting for the provincial government to organise travel to Beijing.

“It is doubly ironic that they are being so secretive about it when the Organisation department (the powerful internal Communist Party HR arm) held a press conference to tell everyone about how they have been especially transparent in selecting the delegates this year,” said Dali Yang, the founding Faculty Director of the University of Chicago Centre in Beijing.

Over the past three decades, the Communist party has usually given at least a month’s notice for the five-yearly Congress.

Analysts have speculated that the delay in confirming the timing for the congress, the details of which are typically finalized during the August gathering of top leaders at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, indicates factional jockeying at the top of the Party. A resolution of the case against disgraced former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai has also held up any progress on the congress. The Party’s silence over the timing of the congress is deafening, according to The South China Morning Post:

Alice Miller, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said that going on past procedures, a Politburo meeting, probably late last month, should have set a date for the 17th Central Committee’s seventh plenum and proposed a date for the 18th congress.

A Politburo meeting held on September 17, 2007, made the decision to convene the pre-congress seventh plenum of the 16th Central Committee on October 9 in order for matters relating to the 17th party congress, which opened on October 15, to be finalised.

Hu Xingdou, a political commentator from the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the party should make its congress more transparent and announce its date as early as possible to prevent wild speculation. “The earlier the announcement [of the date] is made, the better for the party and the country,” said Hu.

Even with the date unknown, Jamestown Foundation fellow Willy Lam has made his prediction of who will secure seats on the revamped Politburo Standing Committee:

A consensus has been reached by the outgoing Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) that the size of this highest ruling council should be cut from nine to seven members. Barring any last minute changes, the new PBSC is expected to consist of the following (and their prospective portfolios): Xi, age 59 (General Secretary and President); Li Keqiang, age 57 (Premier); Yu Zhengsheng, age 67 (Chairman of the National People’s Congress); Zhang Dejiang, age 65 (Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference); Li Yuanchao, age 61 (Head of the Party Secretariat and Vice President); Wang Qishan, age 64 (Executive Vice Premier); and Wang Yang, age 57 (Secretary of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection [CCDI]). The seven-member configuration is an effort by the leadership to return to the norm. Since the Cultural Revolution, the PBSC had consisted of either five or seven members. It was only increased to nine members at the 16th CCP Congress a decade ago. A seven-member PBSC in theory will make decision making more efficient (Apple Daily [Hong Kong] September 10; Ming Pao [Hong Kong], September 3).

Whoever does take over the reins of China’s top ruling bodies, they will face a number of social, economic and foreign policy challenges, and the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion last week to analyze the major issues.

See also previous CDT coverage of the incoming generation of CCP leaders.