BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) – China’s ruling Communist Party will hold its once-every-five-years congress starting on Oct 18, state media said on Thursday (Aug 31), at which President Xi Jinping is expected to receive a second term as the party’s top leader.
The brief dispatch by the official Xinhua news agency did not say how long the congress would go on for.
The 19th party congress will shape the influence for years to come of a president already considered the country’s most powerful leader in a generation.
More than 2,300 delegates will discuss the country’s accomplishments since the previous gathering and elect the new members of the party’s top leadership, according to the party’s official mouthpiece the People’s Daily. The congress will decide a new line-up for the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, the group of seven politicians who run the world’s second largest economy.
At the meeting, Xi is widely expected to consolidate his grip on power, solidifying his position as China’s most powerful ruler in a generation. “The spirit of President Xi Jinping’s important speeches will be carried out at the Congress,” the People’s Daily said.
There has been speculation that Xi’s name will be immortalised in the party’s constitution, alongside the country’s two most powerful former leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
The People’s Daily article added that the meeting would discuss a strategy for building a “moderately prosperous society,” the goal of Xi’s banner campaign to eliminate poverty nationwide by the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021.
The new slate of committee members is traditionally seen as indicating Xi’s most likely successor after he steps down, expected in 2022. But the president has thus far delayed anointing an heir, spurring speculation that he will try to stay in office beyond that year.
Doing so would violate the unofficial rule set by Deng that general secretaries stay in office no longer than 10 years. The concept allows different party factions to dominate at different times, and seeks to prevent the emergence of a despot.
Five of the current seven PSC members are expected to retire at the Congress, and many experts believe Xi and his number two, Premier Li Keqiang, are locked in a struggle to fill the vacancies with their own supporters.
Fifty-three-year-old Sun Zhengcai, the youngest member of the 25-person Politburo, was considered a favourite for promotion to the standing committee before he was abruptly replaced as party chief in the south-west city of Chongqing this July.
His successor, former Xi aide Chen Min'er, is considered a trusted ally of the president. Chen’s promotion has “smashed” expectations that Sun would be promoted to the standing committee, Chen Daoying, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told AFP in July.
The promotion, Chen said, was part of a campaign by Xi to dismantle the system of political succession established by his direct predecessor Hu Jintao and former premier Wen Jiabao, who have maintained considerable influence even in retirement.
After coming to power in 2012, Xi launched a much-publicised anti-graft campaign aimed at tackling endemic corruption within the party – an initiative that has been accused of being used to eliminate the president’s political enemies.