Policy Brief  

What to Expect from the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party

Tony Saich predicts themes at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th Party Congress.

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On October 16, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will convene its 20th Party Congress. Held every five years, the Congress is a critical event. While nothing is seriously debated there, the symbolic function of the Congress is extremely important. It summarizes past achievements and sets out future objectives, all while displaying an outward power and unity. The Congress brings together just over 3,000 delegates from the provinces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and some central agencies for about a week to approve the report of the General Secretary, amendments to the party statutes, and any other documents placed before them. In theory, this sets in motion the appointment of a new leadership by electing candidates to the Central Committee (around 200 members and 150 alternates). In reality, the Congress approves the slate proposed by the outgoing Political Bureau (Politburo) and senior leader- ship. In turn, the Central Committee elects members of the Politburo, its Standing Committee, and the Secretariat, again based on lists provided after the Party leadership has finished haggling.

This Congress will be special, as General Secretary Xi Jinping seeks a third term as political leader (either as general secretary or party chairman), confirms his place and ideas even more concretely within the party statutes, and seeks to appoint a leadership cohort drawn from his associates. Below, I provide my best guesstimates on his chances of reappointment, the leadership structure, and indications for future policy trends.

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