October 18, 2017
Published By Jamphel Shonu

President Xi Jinping arriving for his speech at the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Credit Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

DHARAMSHALA: The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party began today in Beijing, China. Around 2,200 communist party members from across China are attending the closed-door meeting.

The meeting is, at its heart, a leadership transition event, which will select the party’s top leadership for the next five years. These include the 25-member Politburo, the 7-member Politburo Standing Committee, and the Central Commission for Disciplinary Action, the internal discipline organ that has come to the political foreground since 2012.

There is little doubt however that President Xi Jinping who came to power in 2012, will remain in power for another term as General Secretary, the party’s top leadership position and de facto leader in the one party state. However, observers will be watching the congress meeting this week for signs of whether President Xi may be looking to appoint a successor to take over after his traditional second five-year term in office.

Apart from President Xi, the names of the others who will remain or make it into the top 25 and top seven are much less certain. According to retirement norms, five of the seven current Standing Committee members (except Xi and premier Li Keqiang) are due to step down.

Chinese state media have also indicated that the Party is expected to rewrite its constitution during the week-long meeting to include President Xi’s “work report” or political thoughts, which would elevate him to the status of previous Party giants such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

In his inaugural speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping has outlined China’s recent achievements and spoke about a new era in which China had “become a great power in the world”.

He also warned against separatism from the Chinese motherland – in an apparent reference to the freedom movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong – and reiterated the government’s principle that Taiwan is part of China.

He also addressed issues such as the widening income gap and problems such as housing, health, and education in China.

The meeting is expected to conclude in a week. The National Congress is regarded as the most important political event in China, and is held once every five years. The last meeting was held in November 2012.

In anticipation of the meeting, Chinese security agents have fanned out across the country weeks earlier to quell any hint of dissent. Orwellian surveillance and censorship measures have also been put in place to prevent the spread of contrarian political ideas and opinions ahead of the meeting.

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