17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China

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The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Beijing, China, at the Great Hall of the People from 15 to 21 October 2007. The Congress marked significant shift in the political direction of the country as CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao solidified his position of leadership. Hu's signature policy doctrine, the Scientific Development Concept, which aimed to create a "Socialist Harmonious Society" through egalitarian wealth distribution and concern for the country's less well-off, was enshrined into the Party Constitution.[1]

The Congress also set up the political scene for a smooth transition to the fifth generation of party leadership, introducing rising political stars Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang to the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the country's de facto top decision-making body. Vice-President Zeng Qinghong, an important ally of former General secretary Jiang Zemin, retired from the PSC. Party anti-graft chief Wu Guanzheng, and Legal and Political Commission chief Luo Gan also retired due to age.

17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
Simplified Chinese 中国共产党第十七次全国代表大会
Traditional Chinese 中國共產黨第十七次全國代表大會
Abbreviation
Chinese 十七大

Significance[edit]

A Communist Party Congress is a significant event in Chinese politics since it nominally decides the leadership of the People's Republic of China. (The Politburo Standing Committee makes major policy decisions for the government to implement and the National People's Congress in the following March will elevate its members to top government positions.) The 17th Party Congress is estimated to attract over 1350 foreign and domestic journalists.[2]

Although the Congress formally elects the Central Committee and Politburo, in practice these positions are negotiated before the congress, and the Congress has never functioned as a deliberative assembly. Nominees to Party positions are invariably elected by wide margins, with a tightly controlled candidate-to-position ratio. There is room for symbolic protest votes ("no" or "abstain" votes) that embarrass the party leadership. Despite its symbolic nature, it maintains an important role because it is the occasion at which the results of these deliberations are publicly announced, and in which the PRC leadership faces both domestic and foreign reporters in a press conference.

Since the mid-1980s, the Communist Party has attempted to maintain a smooth and orderly succession and avoid a cult of personality, by having a major shift in personnel every ten years in even-number party congresses, and by promoting people in preparation for this shift in odd-number party congresses. These mechanisms have been institutionalized by mandatory retirement ages, and provisions in both the Party and state constitutions that limit the term of office of officials to two five-year terms.

Effects on current leadership[edit]

Based on previous practice, Hu Jintao was confirmed for another term as Party General Secretary, and therefore will be re-elected as state President at the National People's Congress in March–April 2008. Wen Jiabao, too, retained his seat on the PSC. In addition odd-number party congresses have also served as forums in which the top leadership have institutionalized their policy views as additions to party doctrine, in preparation for their retirement at the next party congress. Hu's version of this doctrine is termed the Scientific Development Concept to develop a "socialist harmonious society", which is to follow Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents as a guiding ideology in the Party's constitution.

Effects on succession[edit]

More interesting and unpredictable are the selection of the younger cadres who will be promoted to the Politburo, China's de facto ruling body, and which older cadres will be retired. The youngest person currently on the Politburo is only two years younger than Hu, and consequently there is the widespread belief that Hu's successor will not come from the members currently on the Politburo but rather from the next generation of leaders.

Some commentators have argued that the most significant outcome will not be who is named as Hu's successor, but the manner in which the successor is chosen.[3] Two possibilities exist. Consistent with past practice, the Party leadership could anoint one person as the chosen successor. Alternatively, the Party leadership could name two people as plausible successors with the final decision to be taken at the next party congress.

There is on-going speculation and intrigue about Hu's successor. Although the subject of succession speculation is largely taboo within the mainland Chinese media, Hong Kong and Taiwan media, as well as western media, have predicted a hot contest between Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, currently party chief in Shanghai and Liaoning, respectively.[citation needed]

On 16 October, Xinhua and People's Daily both had headline articles giving prominence to Hu Jintao visiting delegates of the Jiangsu delegation, possibly signifying the elevation of Li Yuanchao.

Effects on lower party officials[edit]

In addition, as people at the top level of the party retire, there is room for younger members of the party to move up one level. Hence the party congress is a time of a general personnel reshuffle, and the climax of negotiations that involve not only the top leadership but practically all significant political positions in Mainland China. Notably, fifth-generation leadership hopefuls Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will leave vacancies in the top leadership position of Shanghai and Liaoning. In addition, Hubei, Guangdong, Chongqing and possibly Tianjin will all go through regional leadership changes. Because of the pyramid structure of the party and the existence of mandatory retirement ages, cadres who are not promoted at a party congress are likely to face the end of their political careers. Current provincial level officials see the Congress as a chance for promotion to Beijing. The Congress will also be significant in determining the amount of influence still held by former General secretary Jiang Zemin, as reflected by the personnel changes.

Although Hong Kong has its separate political system, the Congress is being watched closely by the Special Administrative Region as well. Hong Kong media has often been very vocal in speculation and in reporting events of the Congress. The political direction set by the decisions will have a large impact in the direction of Hong Kong's development in the coming years as well. Taiwan, which recently made another series of moves provoking Beijing, will pay attention to the 17th Congress due to the variations in the direction determined by the current leadership, even though it is very unlikely that China's Taiwan policy will change.[4]

Delegates[edit]

2,213 delegates[5] were elected as delegates to the Congress through a series of staggered elections in which one level of the party elects delegates to the next higher party congress. An additional 57 veteran (mostly retired) communist leaders were appointed directly as delegates. This system has the effect that the party leadership through the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China can control elections and block the election of anyone it finds unacceptable.

The great majority of these are cadres, but about 30% are model workers, and there are about 20 private businesspeople.[6] The number of candidates shortlisted by local Central Committees was 15% more than the number of delegates required, allowing local Party Congress members some degree of choice in the election. State media claimed this was "an improvement over past practices" (5% more in 1997 and 10% more in 2002), but noted heavy supervision of the election process by national Party authorities.[7] In addition, elected delegates had to be approved by the 17th Delegate Status Inspection Committee, and the national Central Committee reserved the right to "select some veteran Party members who have quit their leading posts to attend the upcoming Party congress as specially-invited delegates".[8]

Two prominent delegates are known to have died since the election finished in April 2007, Major-General Wang Shaojun, and former Vice-Premier Huang Ju.[6]

Elections and Work Reports[edit]

Many party positions will be elected, including the following:

Central Committee election[edit]

The election process was supervised by Secretariat Secretary Zeng Qinghong, although he himself was not part of the new Central Committee.[10] Most of those elected will take up the equivalent state positions after the National People's Congress in 2001, although key positions and existing vacancies on the State Council may change before and during the Congress. In the Central Committee elections on 21 October 2008, the margin of dropped off candidates was 8.3%, a three point percentage increase from last year. The increased percentage seems to signify greater "inner Party democracy", and increased power among the delegates (i.e., only 204 out of 221 candidates shortlisted for the Central Committee survived the electoral process).[11] In the new central committee, 107 of the 204 members are new members.

Hu Jintao's work report[edit]

General Secretary Hu Jintao's keynote report was prepared by Wen Jiabao.[10] It was delivered to the first session of the Congress on 15 October 2007, and lasted well over two hours, and was broadcast on all major television and radio stations in the country. The event marked the first major live public address by Hu since taking over power in 2002. It laid heavy emphasis on Hu's Scientific Development Perspective as the current guiding ideology in succession to Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents, with the goal of continuing Socialism with Chinese characteristics and eventual socialist harmonious society.

Western media have generally concentrated on the lack of novelty with Hu's speech, citing that there was no references to political reform during the report. The Communist Party's grip onto power is unlikely to waver for another period of time. Domestically, however, Hu's ideology is a novel addition to the current ideologies of the CPC, adding more of a populist focus, although the political rhetoric in the report was apparent. Hu stressed inner-party democracy, and repeated the word "democracy" 60 times in the speech according to Xinhua. In addition, Hu received applause a total of over 40 times, well over Jiang's record of 16 five years earlier.[12]

During the speech former General secretary Jiang Zemin seemed very tired, was constantly yawning, and was not paying much attention. Jiang seldom talked to Wen Jiabao, who was sitting to his left. Wen was paying full attention to Hu's speech for its entire length. Hong Kong media noted that Jiang left the Great Hall without shaking anyone's hand, and that no one came up to shake his.[13] Surprisingly, Mao's successor Hua Guofeng also attended the Congress as a delegate. All the surviving members of the 14th and 15th PSC's were present, including former Premiers Li Peng and Zhu Rongji, but with the exception of Jiang rival Qiao Shi.

There were work reports from key party leaders and institutions, providing the Party's analysis of the previous quinquennium and its agenda for the next five years.[14] It is possible that the speech will also answer calls for inner-party democracy, i.e. decentralization within the one-party system.[6]

Press conference[edit]

After the plenary sessions, there was a rare press conference by the Politburo Standing Committee. Newcomer Li Keqiang looked a bit stiff while Xi Jinping looked shy.[6]

The plenary sessions of the Congress will meet in the Great Hall of the People

Issues before the Congress[edit]

  • September 2006: Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu is arrested on corruption charges. This is perceived as an attack on the Shanghai Gang by the Hu-Wen alliance.[15]
  • 16 October: Xinhua carries an official commentary attacking "cliques" within the Party, perceived as a reference to the Shanghai clique.[15]
  • February 2007: Party elder Li Rui and retired academic Xie Tao published articles calling for the CPC to become a European-style socialist party; their remarks were condemned by the Party propaganda apparatus.[16]
  • 15 March: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told foreign journalists he supported further political reform. The remarks were initially omitted from the official transcript, allegedly on the orders of hardline propaganda chief Li Changchun.[17]
  • 28 April: Academic Wan Gang becomes the first non-CPC minister in half a century, on being appointed Minister of Science and Technology [16]
  • 25 June: In a major speech at the Central Party School, General Secretary Hu announces the 'Four Steadfasts': an open-minded attitude, reform and opening up, and a moderately well-off (xiaokang) society by 2020.[18]
  • July: Chen Liangyu is formally convicted and expelled from the Party.
  • Mid-August: Top CPC leaders discussed the Congress' decisions at their annual Beidaihe retreat. Some Hong Kong sources claim they decided the shortlists for the new Central Committee and Politburo,[10] while others argued that basic PSC positions were still up for grabs.[19]
  • 19 August: Five national newspapers run identical front pages (shown here), all giving prominence to General secretary Hu.[20]
  • 28 August: A Politburo meeting decides dates of the 17th Party Congress, and the final meeting of the 16th Central Committee.[21]
  • 30 August: A reshuffle promoted Meng Xuenong, former Mayor of Beijing and tuanpai politician, to Governor of Shanxi, whilst ousting Finance Minister Jin Renqing, who was allegedly placed in detention.[22] Zhang Qingwei become the PRC's youngest ever minister, becoming Chairman of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense after a career in the successful space programme.[23] Ma Wen, deputy secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), added the Ministry of Supervision to her responsibilities.[7]
  • 6 September: Ma Wen gained a third role as head of a newly created National Bureau of Corruption Prevention. Unlike the CCDI, this does not investigate individual cases and is a government, rather than Party, organ.[7] This led to speculation that the Congress will highlight the Hu-Wen leadership's anti-corruption drive.[24]
  • Mid-September: The Ministry of Public Security conducted the largest crackdown on Web sites and data hosts in history a month before the event.[25]
  • 18 September: State media announced that the Politburo had submitted an amendment to the CPC Constitution that would entrench Hu's "Scientific Development Concept" ideology alongside the theories of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and Jiang Zemin's Three Represents. The announcement stressed the role of General secretary Hu and phrases associated with him.[26]
  • 19 September: Petitioners in Beijing's Fengtai District ordered to move from their homes due to construction work for the 17th Party Congress;[27] the work was completed by 26 September.[28]
  • 19 September: In a move predicted by the Hong Kong press,[19] Ling Jihua, a tuanpai member and Hu ally, replaced Wang Gang as director of the Central Committee's General Office.[29]
  • 21 September: A People's Daily commentary heralded "new good tidings from Shanghai", adding to speculation that Shanghai chief Xi Jinping was headed for promotion, as the Shanghai Party emerged from the Chen Liangyu scandal.[30]
  • 27 September: U.S.-based Duowei reported that Wu Bangguo had undergone cancer surgery.[31] The same day, he made his first public appearance since 31 August.[32]
  • 29 September: Wu Bangguo was noticeably not present at the Politburo meeting as broadcast by Xinwen Lianbo, while all other Politburo Standing Committee members were given camera time. Also unconventional was the fact that no Politburo Standing Committee members were named except for Hu Jintao.[33]
  • 1 October: Hu Jintao visits Shanghai during National Day, a day after all eight PSC members attended a National Day banquet in Beijing. The move is seen as an affirmation of Shanghai and symbolizes unity between Shanghai and the central leadership. Hu is also to open the Special Olympics there.[34]
  • 4 October: Duowei makes their final predictions on the nine members of the new politburo. Namely, in order ranking, they are Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang.[35]
  • 9 October: The 7th Plenum of the 16th Central Committee meets to finalize the agenda for the Congress. A key decision involving the entrenchment of Hu's Scientific Development Concept and Socialist Harmonious Society has taken place with discussions from delegates of the 16th Central Committee.[36]
  • 14 October: Taiwan-based China Times announces their final speculative shortlist for the PSC. The list is identical to Duowei's shortlist 10 days earlier.[37]

The leadership lineup[edit]

Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas media often speculate on the make up of the leadership months before the Congress takes place. During the 16th Party Congress, the speculation two months prior to the Congress on the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) were entirely accurate.[citation needed]

Leaving the Politburo[edit]

  • Zeng Qinghong, CPC Secretariat Secretary, Vice-President, ranked 5th in Politburo Standing Committee, is out of the 17th Central Committee, likely due to age. Zeng's departure also signals the solidification of Hu Jintao's power.
  • Wu Guanzheng, anti-corruption chief, ranked 7th in PSC, due to age.
  • Luo Gan, Political and Legislative Affairs Committee Secretary, ranked 9th in the PSC, due to age.
  • Wu Yi, Vice-Premier, China's "iron-lady", the only woman in the 16th Politburo, due to age.
  • Zeng Peiyan, Vice-Premier, ranked 3rd, due to age.
  • Cao Gangchuan, Minister of Defence, due to age.

Politburo Standing Committee[edit]

The newly formed Politburo Standing Committee consisted of (in order ranking) Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, from the 16th Central Committee, in addition to four newcomers:

The Politburo[edit]

The Politburo is made of a wider range of cadres whose average age is generally younger than that of the PSC, some of whom slated for promotion at the 18th Party Congress. It has been noted that the Politburo is a power balance between Hu's tuanpai, Jiang's Shanghai clique, and the Crown Prince Party.

In stroke order of surnames

Other Politburo places[edit]

  • Central Committee bureaucrat Wang Gang is expected to become a figurehead on the NPC or CPPCC (and implicitly a Politburo member), although he has an outside chance of a PSC place.[19]
  • Wang Zhaoguo is Wu Bangguo's deputy at the NPC and Hu's former boss in the CYL. He has recently been considered to have an outside chance of a PSC place, given his age.[19]

Regional Positions[edit]

  • Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai, after some reluctance following the Congress, took over as Chongqing Party Chief.
  • Hubei Party chief Yu Zhengsheng took over Shanghai as the municipality's Communist Party secretary.
  • Chongqing Party chief Wang Yang took over as Guangdong Party chief.
  • Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan left his municipal post to become Vice-Premier.[38]

Central Military Commission positions[edit]

Ministerial positions[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chinese slogans mark Hu era Lindsay Beck (Reuters)
  2. ^ 港報:十七大中外記者數量很可能超過十六大.
  3. ^ http://media.hoover.org/documents/CLM22CL.pdf
  4. ^ ?
  5. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/misc/2007-10/15/content_6886280.htm
  6. ^ a b c d e f FACTBOX: China's 17th Communist Party Congress (Reuters)
  7. ^ a b c China establishes national corruption prevention bureau (Xinhua, New China News Agency)
  8. ^ How Delegates to 17th CPC National Congress Elected? (People's Daily Online, via China.org.cn)
  9. ^ a b c Anticipating Chinese Leadership Changes at the 17th Party Congress Cheng Li (Jamestown Foundation China Brief).
  10. ^ a b c Wu Zhong (2003). "Balancing act at the party congress". Asia Times Online. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2007. 
  11. ^ Duowei: 8.3% of candidates dropped out of the CC elections
  12. ^ Duowei: Four Generations sit together at 17th Party Congress
  13. ^ Duowei: 17th Party Congress brings four generations together
  14. ^ Willy Lam (Jamestown Foundation China Brief)
  15. ^ a b Political cliques 'violate basic party principles': Government mouthpiece in veiled attack on 'Shanghai Gang' Cary Huang (South China Morning Post)
  16. ^ a b Hu Jintao Battles the CCP's Crisis of Confidence Willy Lam (Jamestown Foundation's China Brief)
  17. ^ Striving for Balance: Assessing Recent Municipal and Provincial Leadership Changes Willy Lam (Jamestown Foundation's China Brief)
  18. ^ This paragraph expanded from Party charter set to include Hu's theories Ting Shi (South China Morning Post 2007)
  19. ^ a b c d The date is set, now the guessing game is about the players Wang Xiangwei (South China Morning Post 2006)
  20. ^ The Stars Align in China Xiao Qiang (Washington Post)
  21. ^ 17th CPC National Congress proposed to convene in mid October (Xinhua, New China News Agency)
  22. ^ See articles on Meng and Jin.
  23. ^ The Stars of China’s Space Program: The Rise of a “Space Gang”? Kevin Pollpeter (Jamestown Foundation's China Brief)
  24. ^ China names head of new anti-graft body (Agence France-Presse)
  25. ^ No Bloggers in China, Please (Wall Street Journal, payment required)
  26. ^ Communist Party of China to amend Party Constitution (Xinhua, New China News Agency)
  27. ^ 'Deadline up for China petitioners' (BBC)
  28. ^ Beijing Knocks Down Petitioners' Houses Alexa Olesen (AP 27 September 2007)[dead link]
  29. ^ 'Chinese president elevates aide in show of strength ahead of Communist Party congress' (International Herald Tribune)
  30. ^ China's Communist Party mouthpiece lauds Shanghai in boost for new leader (AP via International Herald Tribune)
  31. ^ 多維獨家報導吳邦國動了癌症手術
  32. ^ Top Chinese legislator makes proposals on China, Russian parliamentary co-op (Xinhua)
  33. ^ Xinwen Lianbo: 29 September, lead story.
  34. ^ Xinhuanet: Hu Jintao in Shanghai
  35. ^ 多維判斷十七大政治局常委三下四上
  36. ^ Xinhuanet: 7th Plenum held
  37. ^ China Times: Hu Jintao and China's new elite
  38. ^ New York Times: The shortlist of China's new power elite
  39. ^ China's General Chen Bingde appointed to key military post (AFP via the Straits Times)
  40. ^ Cary Huang (1 September 2007). "Hu protege resurrected ahead of congress". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 

External links[edit]