US Politics

The 2017 Chinese Party Congress explained


Inside the summit that is expected to shore up President Xi Jinping's power base.

Top Chinese Communist Party officials are gathering in Beijing from October 18 for a five-yearly summit that is expected to shore up President Xi Jinping's power base.

What is likely to happen at the congress?

China is a one-party state and the Communist Party will next week spell out its agenda for the next five years and have a leadership reshuffle.

An estimated 2000 party officials will gather at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The party has about 90 million members.

It's almost a guarantee that Chinese President Xi Jinping will retain his position. He's considered the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation.

Mr Xi is expected to install key allies into the standing committee (the Chinese equivalent of cabinet), which currently has seven men.

Five of the seven are slated to retire due to an unwritten rule that one must stand down after age 68.

In the wider ministry - the 25-member politburo - at least 10 positions will open.

There will also be a shake-up in the Chinese military leadership because 90 per cent of the 300 delegates will attend the congress for the first time.

SBS explains: China's Congress
SBS explains: China's Congress

Who are the key names to watch?

  • Chen Miner, 56, is virtually assured of a seat in the politburo. He might be a potential successor to Mr Xi.
  • Hu Chunhua, 54, is the youngest member of the politburo. Might get a promotion and is also considered a potential successor.
  • Wang Yang, 62, is a vice-premier and there are rumblings he might replace Li Keqiang as premier.
  • Cai Qi, 61, has enjoyed a meteoric rise under Mr Xi and is considered a shoo-in after he was named party boss of Beijing in May.

The big questions

  • Mr Xi's second five-year term as leader is scheduled to conclude in 2022.
  • There will be much focus on whether he will name a successor.
  • If he doesn't, that could be a hint he plans to ignore party conventions and go for a third term.
  • Some China analysts believe Mr Xi's anti-corruption drive in recent years was used as cover to target his political opponents.

Xi's pet topic

  • Expect Mr Xi to talk up his One Belt One Road Initiative. It's a vast infrastructure plan to connect China via the ancient Silk Road land route and sea routes with Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe in a bid to boost trade and economic growth while cutting transit time for goods.

Why is Australia watching? 

  • Australia's economy is heavily dependent on China. It's our largest two-way trading partner.
  • Major exports include resources such as iron ore, coal, gold and wool and services such as education and tourism.
  • China's foreign policy direction has implications for Australia and the Asia Pacific region on key strategic issues such as freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the North Korean nuclear threat.
  • Increasingly assertive Chinese leadership on the global stage also has implications for Australia's top ally the US, which is in a retreat under President Donald Trump.

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