All Eyes on Beijing
The National Congress of the Communist Party of China marks 63 years of the Party’s leadership. For the past few months, around the country, new banners and billboards have been springing up daily, extolling the successes of the Party, and its role in bringing peace, prosperity, and improved living conditions to workers, farmers, soldiers, and students across the country. Gardeners are arranging massive bouquets and arrangements in red and yellow around the nation’s capital to mark the festive occasion, while street cleaners are making sure that the dust and detritus of city life don’t interfere with the spirit of the season. Across the country, performers and student have been putting on patriotic shows of song and dance to commemorate this special time. In short – the 18th National Party Congress has arrived.
The date of the Congress, November 8th -14th, was finally announced in the shadow of the October National Day holiday, allowing China-watchers from every imaginable background to advance their speculations from the topic of when to theories of what. With planning and preparations for the Congress conducted so decisively behind closed doors, observers have been searching for any hints they can find on decisions to be taken at this critical, twice-a-decade Party conclave. There is a lot that can be learned from the Party Congress and the analysis that surrounds it, but perhaps most important for China-watchers is to remember the limitations of observation.
At Ogilvy Public Relations we have compiled in an easy-to-read format what is in store, and what to watch for at the 18th Party Congress as it marks an inflection point in China’s rise to global importance. As China continues its transition from a ‘big’ country to a ‘strong’ country, many of the decisions and directions taken at this Congress, not the least of which is the selection of a new generation of Party leaders, will ripple through the coming decades with both predictable and unpredictable consequence.
We hope that you enjoy this read, and we look forward to comments or questions that will spur greater understanding and conversation about China’s current and future success.
The Road to the National Party Congress
The National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) marks the formal transition of power from one generation to the next, while reinforcing the political and legislative legitimacy derived from the Party’s position as one of the two key pillars of the state, along with the constitution.
The Chinese Communist Party convenes a National Congress every five years to turn the page on a new chapter in a book that was authored by its revolutionary fathers. Each congress is a milestone in the party’s progress along its socialist path.
The Party Congress is not to be confused with the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is the highest meeting of China’s legislators, held annually in March.
The 2012 Party Congress will consist of 2,270 representatives from 40 delegations, and will broadly represent China’s diverse political, social, and ethnic backgrounds. The number of representatives at the 2012 congress marks a 20% increase over the 17th Party Congress five years ago – evidence of a continuing institutionalization of Party mechanics, and the ongoing growth in Party enrollment. Although 15% of the representatives to this year’s Congress will have been selected through direct and intra-party elections, the depth of the voting process remains shallow; from the onset, these representatives have over a 90% chance of being elected.
The 2012 Party Congress also continues to welcome a small but growing bloc of ‘non-traditional’ members and new layers of society, including 48 members from the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Region, and the ‘breakaway province’ of Taiwan. In response to former General Secretary of the Communist Party Jiang Zemin’s invitation to join the Party, the attendance of entrepreneurs is also growing, with 28 private businessmen representing their constituencies at the national conclave.
At its core, however, the Party Congress is a meeting of the Party elite, led by the 204 members of the CPC Central Committee. The following chart lists out the key functions and members of the decision-making elite in the Central Committee. The Central Committee forms the nerve center of China’s political direction-setting, with the Politburo Standing Committee at its core.
The Party Congress will serve to form the new Central Committee, and in turn the Politburo Standing Committee, where a new generation of leaders will take the reins from the outgoing leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao.
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