17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party
Date15–21 October 2007 (7 days)
LocationGreat Hall of the People, Beijing, China
Participants2,213 delegates
OutcomeElection of the 17th Central Committee and 17th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
Websitewww.china.org.cn/english/congress/225855.htm
17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party
Traditional Chinese中國共產黨第十七次全國代表大會
Simplified Chinese中国共产党第十七次全国代表大会
Abbreviation
Chinese十七大

The 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was held in Beijing, China, at the Great Hall of the People from 15 to 21 October 2007. Congress marked a significant shift in the political direction of the country as CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao solidified his position of leadership. Hu's signature policy doctrine, the Scientific Development Concept, which aimed to create a "Socialist Harmonious Society" through egalitarian wealth distribution and concern for the country's less well-off, was enshrined into the Party Constitution. It was succeeded by the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.[1]

The Congress also set up the political scene for a smooth transition to the fifth generation of party leadership, introducing rising political stars Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang to the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the country's de facto top decision-making body. Vice-President Zeng Qinghong, an important ally of former General secretary Jiang Zemin, retired from the PSC. Party anti-graft chief Wu Guanzheng, and Legal and Political Commission chief Luo Gan also retired due to age, replaced by He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang in their respective posts.

Significance

A Communist Party Congress is a significant event in Chinese politics since it nominally decides the leadership of the People's Republic of China. (The Politburo Standing Committee makes major policy decisions for the government to implement and the National People's Congress in the following March will elevate its members to top government positions.)

Although the Congress formally elects the Central Committee and Politburo, in practice these positions are negotiated before the congress, and the Congress has never functioned as a deliberative assembly. Nominees to Party positions are invariably elected by wide margins, with a tightly controlled candidate-to-position ratio. There is room for symbolic protest votes ("no" or "abstain" votes) that embarrass the party leadership. Despite its symbolic nature, it maintains an important role because it is the occasion at which the results of these deliberations are publicly announced, and in which the PRC leadership faces both domestic and foreign reporters in a press conference.

Since the mid-1980s, the Communist Party has attempted to maintain a smooth and orderly succession and avoid a cult of personality, by having a major shift in personnel every ten years in even-number party congresses, and by promoting people in preparation for this shift in odd-number party congresses. These mechanisms have been institutionalized by mandatory retirement ages, and provisions in both the Party and state constitutions that limit the term of office of officials to two five-year terms.

Effects on incumbent leadership

Based on established convention, Hu Jintao was confirmed for another term as the party's General Secretary, setting the scene for his re-election as state President at the National People's Congress in March 2008. Wen Jiabao, too, retained his seat on the PSC and continued to serve as Premier. In addition odd-number party congresses have also served as forums in which the top leadership has institutionalized their policy views as additions to party doctrine, in preparation for their retirement at the next party congress. Hu's version of this doctrine is termed the Scientific Development Concept to develop a "socialist harmonious society", which followed Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents as a guiding ideology in the Party's constitution.

Succession planning

More interesting and unpredictable were the selection of the younger cadres who will be promoted to the Politburo, China's de facto ruling body. The youngest person currently on the Politburo prior to the congress was only two years younger than Hu, and consequently, there was widespread speculation that Hu's successor would not come from the members serving on the Politburo prior to the congress but rather from the next generation of leaders. Prior to the congress, speculation was rife on who would be named as Hu's successor. Although the subject of succession speculation is largely taboo within the mainland Chinese media, Hong Kong and Taiwan media, as well as international media, predicted that the top candidates would be Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, then serving as party chief in Shanghai and Liaoning, respectively.[citation needed]

Effects on lower party officials

In addition, as people at the top level of the party retire, there is room for younger members of the party to move up one level. Hence the party congress is a time of a general personnel reshuffle, and the climax of negotiations that involve not only the top leadership but practically all significant political positions in Mainland China. Notably, fifth-generation leadership hopefuls Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will leave vacancies in the top leadership position of Shanghai and Liaoning. In addition, Hubei, Guangdong, Chongqing and possibly Tianjin will all go through regional leadership changes. Because of the pyramid structure of the party and the existence of mandatory retirement ages, cadres who are not promoted at a party congress are likely to face the end of their political careers. Current provincial-level officials see the Congress as a chance for promotion to Beijing. The Congress will also be significant in determining the amount of influence still held by former General secretary Jiang Zemin, as reflected by the personnel changes.

Although Hong Kong has its separate political system, Congress is being watched closely by the Special Administrative Region as well. Hong Kong media has often been very vocal in speculation and in reporting events of the Congress. The political direction set by the decisions will have a large impact on the direction of Hong Kong's development in the coming years as well.

Delegates

2,213 delegates[citation needed] were elected as delegates to the Congress through a series of staggered elections in which one level of the party elects delegates to the next higher party congress. An additional 57 veteran (mostly retired) communist leaders were appointed directly as delegates. This system has the effect that the party leadership through the Organization Department of the Chinese Communist Party can control elections and block the election of anyone it finds unacceptable.

The great majority of these are cadres, but about 30% are model workers, and there are about 20 private businesspeople.[2] The number of candidates shortlisted by local Central Committees was 15% more than the number of delegates required, allowing local Party Congress members some degree of choice in the election. State media claimed this was "an improvement over past practices" (5% more in 1997 and 10% more in 2002), but noted heavy supervision of the election process by national Party authorities.[3] In addition, elected delegates had to be approved by the 17th Delegate Status Inspection Committee, and the National Central Committee reserved the right to "select some veteran Party members who have quit their leading posts to attend the upcoming Party congress as specially-invited delegates".[4]

Two prominent delegates are known to have died since the election finished in April 2007, Major-General Wang Shaojun, and former Vice-Premier Huang Ju.[2]

Elections and Work Reports

Many party positions will be elected, including the following:

Central Committee election

The election process was supervised by Secretariat Secretary Zeng Qinghong, although he himself was not part of the new Central Committee.[6] Most of those elected will take up the equivalent state positions after the National People's Congress in 2001, although key positions and existing vacancies on the State Council may change before and during the Congress. In the Central Committee elections on 21 October 2008, the margin of dropped off candidates was 8.3%, a three-point percentage increase from last year. The increased percentage seems to signify greater "inner Party democracy", and increased power among the delegates (i.e., only 204 out of 221 candidates shortlisted for the Central Committee survived the electoral process).[7] In the new central committee, 107 of the 204 members are new members.

Hu Jintao's work report

General Secretary Hu Jintao's keynote report was prepared by Wen Jiabao.[6] It was delivered to the first session of the Congress on 15 October 2007, and lasted well over two hours, and was broadcast on all major television and radio stations in the country. The event marked the first major live public address by Hu since taking over power in 2002. It laid heavy emphasis on Hu's Scientific Development Perspective as the current guiding ideology in succession to Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents, with the goal of continuing Socialism with Chinese characteristics and eventual socialist harmonious society.

Western media have generally concentrated on the lack of novelty with Hu's speech, citing that there was no references to political reform during the report. The Communist Party's grip on power is unlikely to waver for another period of time. Domestically, however, Hu's ideology is a novel addition to the current ideologies of the CCP, adding more of a populist focus, although the political rhetoric in the report was apparent. Hu stressed inner-party democracy, and repeated the word "democracy" 60 times in the speech according to Xinhua. In addition, Hu received applause a total of over 40 times, well over Jiang's record of 16 five years earlier.[8]

During the speech, former General secretary Jiang Zemin seemed very tired, was constantly yawning, and was not paying much attention. Jiang seldom talked to Wen Jiabao, who was sitting to his left. Wen was paying full attention to Hu's speech for its entire length. Hong Kong media noted that Jiang left the Great Hall without shaking anyone's hand and that no one came up to shake his.[9] Surprisingly, Mao's successor Hua Guofeng also attended the Congress as a delegate. All the surviving members of the 14th and 15th PSC's were present, including former Premiers Li Peng and Zhu Rongji, but with the exception of Jiang rival Qiao Shi.

There were work reports from key party leaders and institutions, providing the Party's analysis of the previous quinquennium and its agenda for the next five years.[10] It is possible that the speech will also answer calls for inner-party democracy, i.e. decentralization within the one-party system.[2]

Regarding Taiwan, Hu emphasized cultural, economic, and blood ties between the island and the People's Republic of China.[11]: 170  In doing so, Hu used the slogan, "an entity of common destiny linked by blood."[11]: 170  This slogan was later adapted by Xi Jinping into the broader concept of the common destiny for humankind.[11]: 170 

Press conference

After the plenary sessions, there was a rare press conference by the Politburo Standing Committee. Newcomer Li Keqiang looked a bit stiff while Xi Jinping looked shy.[2]

The plenary sessions of the Congress will meet in the Great Hall of the People

Issues before the Congress

The Seventeenth National Congress made the negotiation of free trade agreements a priority, which accelerated the pace of China's bilateral free trade agreement negotiations.[12]: 153 

Timeline of other events

The leadership lineup

Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas media often speculate on the makeup of the leadership months before Congress takes place. During the 16th Party Congress, the speculation two months prior to the Congress on the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) were entirely accurate.[citation needed]

Leaving the Politburo

Politburo Standing Committee

The newly formed Politburo Standing Committee consisted of (in order ranking) Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, from the 16th Central Committee, in addition to four newcomers:

The Politburo

The Politburo is made of a wider range of cadres whose average age is generally younger than that of the PSC, some of whom slated for promotion at the 18th Party Congress. It has been noted that the Politburo is a power balance between Hu's tuanpai, Jiang's Shanghai clique, and the Crown Prince Party.

In stroke order of surnames

Other Politburo places

Regional Positions

Central Military Commission positions

Ministerial positions

See also

References

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