Video explainer: China’s 19th National Party Congress
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Video explainer: China’s 19th National Party Congress


These are the most powerful men in China the members of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee the country’s highest political body For the past five years these seven men have overseen some pretty significant policies and events But soon Communist Party members will gather in Beijing for its National Congress where its leadership for the next five years including the Politburo Standing Committee, will be announced And this is happening against a backdrop of a power struggle between Xi Jinping and other key figures within the party And questions about whether Xi will step aside in five years time as party convention dictates There is clearly a lot at stake at this Congress, which is looming as a test of Xi Jinping’s power within the party In October this year, nearly three thousand delegates from the Chinese Communist Party will gather at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for the 19th National Party Congress It is the most important political event in China Held every five years, it is where the party’s new leadership and its policy agenda is announced We asked Dr Ryan Manuel, an expert on the Chinese political system to explain this fairly opaque event that has obvious implications for the rest of the world For the last year all around China in every village, hamlet, county, municipality, province they have had their own little congresses electing people that all now get to go to Beijing for the big party The reason we get interested in this Congress is because, in the past this has always been where they change the leadership What’s significant about this Congress is, firstly, who’s invited to come, as in the delegates but they’ve all been picked for the last year What’s much more significant in this Congress is about who finishes up at the end being on top because that’s the whole point of the Congress At the end, you end up with seven, maybe nine, maybe eleven, no one knows maybe even five men, always men, unfortunately standing on a stage, telling you who the new leaders of China will be The Communist Party of China, which has close to 90 million members, is run by a Central Committee The committee has two smaller executive bodies the Political Bureau (or Politburo) and the Politburo Standing Committee (or the PSC) The PSC is the highest body of China At the Party Congress the makeup of all three political bodies will change But what matters most is who ends up on the PSC because that is where the real power is These men will effectively run the world’s largest military and the second largest economy for the next five years When you run China you have basically two ways of making people do what you want The first way is by putting your cronies in the positions you want knowing that they’ll do what you want them to The second way is by telling everybody what to do The 19th Party Congress is a really good chance for you to firstly… take all the people from the last five years and get rid of the ones you don’t like and put in ones you do like more And secondly tell everyone what you’re going to do Now for the leader Xi Jinping there’s a huge amount at stake in this Congress because he became the leader five years ago but when you become the leader your predecessor gets to pick everybody who sits on the committee for you basically you’re stuck with the last leaders best choices “…A top Chinese official has been charged with accepting bribes, stealing state secrets and abusing his power his indictment part of an enormous corruption crackdown President Xi Jinping…” Leading up to this year’s Congress there has been a lot of speculation about a power struggle between Xi Jinping and other key figures within the party After looking like he was in trouble, Xi seems to have the ascendency having removed or nullified some of these key opponents And five of the seven members of the PSC could or should step down this year there is somewhat of an unofficial retirement age of 68 So Xi can further consolidate his power if he’s able to get his allies onto the PSC People often describe this by saying that there are factions or little groups within this that jostle for power What the second Congress for Xi, because the first Congress was the one where he became the leader what the second Congress does is it allows him to basically make one faction, him People sometimes see this as being a Xi Jinping power grab The thing is, he already has the power This is more like a chance to replenish the stocks with people that he likes more This Congress should technically be Xi Jinping’s last as leader The term limit for party president is ten years or two consecutive five-year terms So we should see the anointing of the next possible leader of China who would be elected onto the PSC to be groomed for leadership Just as Xi Jinping was in 2007 But with Xi’s growing power and influence over the party there is some speculation that he might try and hold on for a third term Beyond determining the new leadership of the party the 19th Congress will also set China’s policy agenda for the next five years At this Congress, people often look for a big decision something dramatic that will happen That’s not what this Congress is for This Congress is for telling everybody who their new leaders are going to be for saying what’s already happened in the last five years, and then putting out a vision for the next five years which is very broad It’s saying, we will work on corruption we’ll possibly work on changing our foreign policy a little bit Xi Jinping has his own favorite policy which he calls Belt and Road Basically in other words Xi is going to give us the next five years of motherhood statements Then everything can start to figure itself out and people can start to make policies That usually takes between six to twelve months so there be a lot of speeches and a lot of talk for a little while But not much will actually change at the Congress The big change is actually who gets put into positions

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