BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2017/43

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been brought into conclusion with the main posts in the party hierarchy filled. The CPC’s highest decision-making body, the politburo standing committee, continues to be led by party secretary Xi Jinping (president) and also Li Keqiang (premier) maintained his seat at the standing committee. They are joined by five new members: Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the new permanent committee members is that they will all be too old to qualify for the top job at the next national congress if age rules are enforced. Thus, the top party organ contains no heir apparent. The two leading prospects for top spots going into the party congress were Chen Miner and Hu Chunhua. Both had to settle for seats in the politburo, the second-tier of CPC leadership. Moreover, it is still not clear whether president Xi will continue for an exceptional third term or will successors be promoted to the standing committee at later stage. This time the informal pension rule was enforced. Ahead of the congress, it was expected that the influential Wang Qishan, even at the age of 69, would be allowed to continue in the inner circle since he is an important ally of Xi and he has long headed the anticorruption programme. However, he was not selected even into the 205-member CPC central committee.

The party congress for the most part proceeded as expected. Xi Jinping’s position was reinforced and his name was added to the party’s constitution. The act places Xi in the pantheon of the greatest leaders of the modern era, on par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. No big changes in economic policy are expected. Freedom and openness were emphasised, even as the roles of the party and the state in the economy are expected to increase.