Chinese Communist Party's National Congress To Set Leaders, Agenda For Next 5 Years

Amid high regional tensions, lingering economic damage of zero-Covid policies and near-record youth unemployment, the Chinese Communist Party is about to conduct its national congress -- a twice-a-decade gathering in which leaders are named and long-term goals are set.  

“At the congress, we will make an overall assessment and scientifically plan the mission objectives and policy directions for the next five years and beyond,” said the party's newspaper, People's Daily, in an editorial.

Xi Jinping, center, presides over the 2017 national congress of the Chinese Communist Party
Xi Jinping, center, presides over the 2017 national congress of the Chinese Communist Party (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) 

The 2,296 delegates who convene in Beijing on Oct. 16 will select the members of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee. Full members of that group will then elect the 25-person Politburo and its Standing Committee.  

Having used anti-corruption campaigns to take potential rivals out of play, President Xi Jinping is fully expected to be named to an unprecedented third term as the party's general secretary.

"Xi’s continued dominance of the CCP is the only certainty heading into the 20th Party Congress," writes The Diplomat's Shannon Tiezzi. "Who else will join him on the Politburo Standing Committee...will be closely watched as a sign of just how tightly Xi controls the levers of power and what the CCP will focus on for the next five years.

The congress will start with a lengthy address by Xi, which will be "the most authoritative public account of the Chinese Communist Party's path on all major policy fronts," writes Chatham House's Yu Jie. 

The closing visual, however, will also speak volumes:

"The weeklong event all boils down to one moment: when Xi strides along a red carpet soon after the close of the congress with the new supreme Standing Committee following him in order of rank," says Bloomberg. "Only then will China's 1.4 billion people learn who will be running their economy, military and foreign policy for the next five years."

At the 2012 national congress, the party established "The Two Centenaries," a set of goals aimed at first making China "a moderately prosperous society in all respects" by 2021, and then "a strong, democratic, civilised, harmonious and modern socialist country" by 2049, when the country will celebrate its centennial.  

Last year, Xi declared success against the 2021 objective. According to the South China Morning Post, this year's congress is expected to review a two-stage strategy to achieve the 2049 goal: "In the first phase, China will aim to make significant progress by 2035 in nine areas, including critical core technology, military modernisation, advanced economic systems and carbon neutrality.

Change may be afoot atop China's diplomatic corps: Xi's top foreign policy advisor, 72-year-old Yan Jiechi, is expected to step down from the Politburo, reports the South China Morning Post.  One likely successor is Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who's been making daily headlines over the past few weeks -- while also heaping elaborate praise on Xi. 

“Apart from his tougher-than-usual actions on Pelosi, Taiwan, the US and Japan, Wang’s flattering remarks about Xi are obviously a calculated move for the domestic audience,” an anonymous mainland Chinese analyst told the Morning Post

Reflecting on China's recent experiences and the future, the People's Daily wrote: 

“It has been an extraordinary decade, and we have encountered many risks and challenges, sometimes even faced existential threats. The burdens on our shoulders are rarely seen in the world and in history.

We must have the courage to carry out a great struggle with many new historical characteristics, be prepared to make more arduous efforts, continue to be modest and prudent, guard against arrogance and impatience, continue to work hard, forge ahead, do our best with our own affairs, and persevere to achieve our established goals.”

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