The eyes of the world are on Beijing as China prepares to hold its most important political event in years, a twice-a-decade meeting that will shape the country’s future for the next five years.
The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will begin Wednesday, and Chinese President and General Secretary of the Party Xi Jinping is expected to use the event to consolidate power and emerge as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
More than 2,000 delegates will meet in the Great Hall of the People in the capital and elect over 200 people to the Central Committee and 25 people to the Politburo. Most of the members of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee are expected to retire during the meeting, creating an opportunity for the Chinese president to fill this top decision making body with valued loyalists.
During the upcoming event, Xi, who will almost certainly be granted a second term, will present a work report reviewing China’s achievements and the government’s plans for the future, specifically it’s five-year plan. Observers are curious whether China will get serious about reform and begin looking seriously at its debt and credit-driven growth.
The National Congress, an event during which the Chinese government celebrates decisions made in the shadows in advance, has been held every five years since the 11th National Party Congress in 1977, the year after Mao passed away, leading to dramatic changes in China.
Since Xi took power as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP in 2012, the man has become the “core” of the CCP and the “supreme leader,” a term last used to describe Mao.
He has around a dozen official titles securing his grip on the military and national decision-making bodies. Xi has also eliminated numerous political enemies as part of his massive anti-corruption campaign that has led to the punishment of 1.409 million Chinese government officials, many of which have been imprisoned for alleged crimes in violation of the spirit of the party.
While others fall, political allies have risen in rank.
Many are wondering if this National Congress will reveal Xi’s intent to stay on for a third term, holding onto power even after he should step down. A potential successor to Xi, former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai, was stripped of his titles and investigated for corruption late last month. China scholars are closely watching whether Wang Qishan, the top party graft buster, is 69 and slated to retire, as officials typically leave their posts at 68. If Xi breaks tradition to allow Wang to stay on as a member of the PSC, it might signal that Xi intends to do the same.
The Chinese president has pursued an aggressive program to further China’s development while advancing Chinese interests and enhancing the country’s power and influence abroad by expanding and modernizing Chinese military power and launching global trade initiatives.
Domestically, Xi is expected to use his newfound influence to reshape domestic political philosophy as those before him have with “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Deng Xiaoping Theory.” The China Daily, a state-run media outlet, revealed Wednesday that an amendment to the constitution “incorporating the latest concepts, theories and strategies of the leadership” will be reviewed during the five-day congress in Beijing.
“China’s voice is going to be much louder and more pronounced,” Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, explained to U.S. News. “This new vision, based on an insightful grasp of the changing international situation and the trends of the times, embodies Chinese wisdom and its perspectives for reforming and improving the global governance system,” the China Daily wrote of Xi’s grand ideological theory for China’s future.
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