The all-important 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has kicked off with a two-day 8th Plenary Session of the 18 Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the CPC that began on October 9 (local date) at the Jingxi Hotel in Beijing.
The plan for that meeting was to have Politburo Standing Committee member and anti-graft czar Wang Qishan present a work report on behalf of the CCDI summarizing all the significant achievements in party discipline over the past five years, after which China’s President and General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping would sing the praises of Wang’s anti-corruption achievements.
*** That carefully choreographed sequence should not be interpreted as a sign that the powerful Wang will have his term on the top decision making Politburo Standing Committee renewed at the upcoming 19th National Congress. Indeed, sources within the Politburo believe Wang Qishan will most likely retire from the PSC, leaving an opening for one of Xi’s close confidantes, Chen Miner, to be selected to the PSC and to eventually succeed Xi Jinping as President. ***
*** As broadly expected, the 19th Congress will be a show of force for Xi, with the CPC affirming his supreme authority, and likely to symbolically adopt “Xi Jinping Thought” or “Xi Jinping Thought on Governance of China” into the communist party’s constitution (see SGH 9/8/17, “China: The Economy and the Next Xi Jinping Era”). Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the CPC will affirm Xi Jinping’s tenure for not one, but two more five-year terms, through the 21st CPC National Congress, slated for 2027. ***
*** Assuming Wang does indeed retire, the runner up for the next generation of party leadership behind Chen Miner, the current Secretary of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee will be Hu Chunhua, a current Politburo member and Secretary of Guangdong Province. While Chen is likely to succeed Xi as President, standing politburo officials believe Hu will succeed Li Keqiang to the second position of Premier. ***
And there will be no significant changes to the slate of candidates we had previously understood were slated for the top decision-making PSC of the Politburo. In addition to Xi and Li themselves, that list includes the afore mentioned Wang, Chen and Hu, plus Wang Yang (current Politburo member and Vice Premier), Li Zhansu (Politburo member and Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee), Han Zheng (Politburo member and Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee), and Zhao Leji (Politburo member and Head of the Department of Organization).
Fifteen Days of Tight Choreography
After the nod to the achievements of Wang Qishan and the CCDI’s high profile anti-corruption drive, the outgoing 18th CPC Central Committee will hold its Seventh Plenary Session on October 11-14, also at the Jingxi Hotel in Beijing.
The Seventh Plenary Session will have nine chief goals. Item one will be to give final approval to Xi’s Political Report that will be submitted to the 19th National Congress of the CPC. Item two will be to approve an amendment to the CPC constitution. Item three to six are final approval of the recommended candidates to the Politburo membership of the 19th CPC Central Committee. Item 7 is approval of the elite Politburo Standing Committee. And finally, item 8 and 9 will be the conclusion of “the matter of Sun Zhengcai,” the disgraced former Politburo member and Agriculture Minister who was just removed from office in July of 2017.
Following the Seventh Plenary Session, the preparatory meeting for the 19th National Congress of the CPC will be held on October 17 at the famous Great Hall of the People in Beijing, presided over by Xi himself.
The full and formal Congress will finally be held between October 18 and 24. Tight secrecy will be maintained, and nothing will be revealed until the end of the Congress, which features a staggered leadership selection process.
First, a total of 2,287 delegates will select roughly 210 members to the 19th CPC Central Committee plus roughly 180 alternate members. Then the 210 or so members with their full voting rights in the new Central Committee will vote for the Politburo, and finally, for the highest body, the Politburo Standing Committee.
Assuming, as we do, all goes to plan, on October 25 Xi will then finally triumphantly lead the newly elected members of the PSC, formally known as the Standing Committee of the 19th CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, to meet the press at the Great Hall of the People.