How China's leadership is selected

2012-11-08 09:29
A general view shows delegates attending the opening of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Wang Zhao, AFP)

A general view shows delegates attending the opening of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Wang Zhao, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beijing - China's communist elite are meeting to install a new generation of leaders in a process that is part public show and part backroom politicking.

At the centre of the spectacle is the Communist Party congress, a gathering held once every five years that is the 18th such event in the party's history.

The congress is more interlude than climax. Important decisions are made by current and retired leaders, some of whom are not even on the congress delegates' roster, in bargaining that began years ago and has largely been already resolved.

Here's a look at how it works:

The delegates

Selecting delegates to the congress began months ago, with recommendations made by the party's 82 million members, which are then vetted, winnowed and voted on twice.

In practice, the selection is controlled by the party's personnel division, giving the leadership room to make sure the powerful and their key protégés are included.

President Hu Jintao, who will retire as party general secretary, is a delegate from Jiangsu province, where he grew up but has not lived for four decades.

Most of the 2 268 delegates are chosen to show that the congress is broadly representative. Only the opinions of a small subset matter. One power-broker, retired President Jiang Zemin, is a specially invited delegate, a sign of his continuing influence in the leadership bargaining.

The congress

Held over seven days, the congress selects the Central Committee, the party's policy-setting body. The most recent committee had 370 people, comprised of full members and non-voting alternates drawn from the upper echelons of the party, government and military.

The congress also names the party's internal watchdog agency.

Though the powerful hold sway in determining the outcome, there is room for dissent on the margins. Candidates outnumber seats by a tiny percentage.

Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to replace Hu as party chief, barely made it into the committee in 1997 in what was seen as a vote against nepotism. His father was a patriarch of the revolution. This time rank-and-file delegates have been told to "maintain unity" with the leadership.

The leadership

After the congress ends, the Central Committee meets to select a Politburo, roughly 25 members, and from that group, the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of power.

The current standing committee has nine members, though party-connected academics say that may be whittled to seven this time.

Two members are considered shoo-ins: Xi and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to be named premier. The Central Committee also appoints the party commission that oversees the military.

A critical question is whether Hu will stay as military commission head. His predecessor, Jiang, did so, hanging on for more than two years and casting a shadow over Hu's efforts to consolidate power.

The backstory

Choosing the new leaders involves fractious bargaining that attempts to balance out factions and interest groups in the party.

Two of the presumed next leaders, Xi and Li, were anointed five years ago, inducted into Hu's leadership to provide continuity. Xi is seen as ex-president Jiang's man; Li as Hu's.

Deciding the rest of the lineup has seen unexpectedly sharp-elbowed jostling this year. Bo Xilai, a populist politician seen as a rising star, was cashiered after an aide disclosed that his wife murdered a British businessman.

He awaits prosecution, and deciding his fate divided the leadership. A Hu ally was also sidelined after his son died in a Ferrari crash, weakening Hu. How weak will be apparent by counting his allies in the new leadership.

Hidden rules

China, like most communist governments, has a history of violent, unpredictable leadership successions. One of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's named successors died in an alleged failed coup.

Party leaders have instituted informal age and term limits to smooth out power transfers. Party chiefs are limited to two five-year terms, while senior leaders 68 years or older at the time of a congress are considered too old to serve in a new leadership.

Jiang's stepping aside for Hu in 2002 was the first orderly succession since the party came to power in 1949.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    li keqiang  |  xi jinping  |  bo xilai  |  hu jintao  |  china

Beirut protest turns violent

2015-10-08 22:24 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

De Allende's star burns bright
Boks were 'in a dark space'
Pacific island teams singled out for rough tactics?
Ireland favourites but France bullish
Traffic Alerts

It is always easier to notice the faults in others rather than face our own. Focusing too much on the perfect and ideal more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.