The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China begins in Beijing on Sunday. The prospects of party leader Xi Jinping winning a historic third term are high. During China’s biggest political event, the world gets a glimpse of the country’s highly closed kitchen for the rest of the year. This is what we can expect.
What happens at the party convention?
Every five years, more than 2,000 party members gather in Beijing. Then they choose who will be the new leader of China for the next five years. The president is not elected by the people. So China is not a democracy.
The Chinese Communist Party ruled China for 73 years. The party currently holds two-thirds of the seats in the National People’s Congress. Xi’s party determines the course of the country. Party members will vote on this during the convention.
What people see at the conference is basically a play. How members vote is determined in advance. However, it is interesting for outsiders to see which direction China wants to go. The rest of the year the country is very closed about it.
The party’s roughly 2,300 members already know what to vote for.
What makes this year’s conference important?
There is a good chance that Xi will get a third term. He already had this plan in 2018. That year he deleted the two-term limit from the constitution. In fact, the 69-year-old Xi may want to remain president for the rest of his life.
If Xi secures a third term, he will be the longest serving leader of modern China since Mao Zedong. The latter led China and the Chinese Communist Party from 1949 until his death in 1976. Mao ruled the country as a dictator.
But Congress is not just about electing a leader. Once again the entire party leadership is formed. CCP is built like a pyramid. At the top are the Politburo (25 members) and the Standing Committee (about 7 members). They are a kind of cabinet for the party.
It will be interesting to see how the roles of the party leadership will be divided. Many experts believe that Xi will gather as many close associates as possible around him. A much smaller group of experts believes that Xi is choosing not only the “preferred policy”.
It is also interesting which member of the Standing Committee will take the stage first after Xi. Traditionally, this person is often seen as the intended successor to the current leader.
On the day before the conference, people pass in front of the impressive Great Hall of the People.
What can we expect in terms of content?
Xi will share his vision for the country’s future on the first day of the conference. Five years ago, his speech was upbeat. He wanted China to become a leading global power by 2050. He kept talking about reforms.
Since then the situation in China has changed dramatically. This is mainly due to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. The economy has been hit hard by the government’s very strict Corona policy. Its growth slowed down and almost stopped.
However, analysts do not believe that Xi will announce drastic political changes. Not when it comes to the economy and not when it comes to strict Corona policy.
The halo rules are also strict during the conference. Party members and the few journalists allowed to attend are tested daily. They also have to stay in the halo bubble all week.
Can the audience still find something about the conference?
The Chinese people have no say in the course of the country. But every now and then a rare counter-noise could be heard. For example, the Chinese have been criticizing Corona’s rules for months. After a few casualties, the city is quickly locked down. This year, for example, there were protests in the modern city of Shanghai.
During the congress, the CCP absolutely does not want to hear or see any critical voices. Not on the street, but also not on the censored internet. Therefore the security measures surrounding the event are very strict.
However, last week agents were unable to prevent protesters from holding two banners in Beijing. The paintings contained critical texts directed against Xi and his policies. Soon the police removed the sheets. And also on the Chinese Internet, soon nothing was found about the protest.
The party convention begins on Sunday at 10 a.m. (local time) and ends on October 22.
Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Square) is full of surveillance cameras.
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