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China This Week: The 19th CPC Party Congress

Sep 25 , 2017

As the UN General Assembly convened in New York City this week, one of the "most vocal defenders of globalization and talks with North Korea is sitting out one of the world's biggest gatherings devoted to them," wrote the LA Times on the eve of the forum. Why? Xi Jinping has bigger fish to fry.

There has been a flurry of coverage from Beijing in the run-up to the 19th Party Congress, which is set to take place October and promises to set the tone for at least the next five years. While the upcoming congress will not be a full-fledged transition of power, as Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, and the majority of the Politburo Standing Committee will remain in power, some analysts are looking to patterns in leadership reshuffling in the lead-up to the congress to reveal the CCP's sixth generation of leaders.

On Monday, the CCP announced plans to revise its constitution at the 19th Party Congress. Most believe that Xi Jinping's political theories will be a blueprint for the amended charter. By Friday, a senior government researcher revealed that China would push fiscal reforms that could boost revenues for local governments after the Congress, coming on the heels of the S&P Global Ratings downgrade of China's long-term sovereign credit rating. Also on Friday, Chinese corruption watchdog, Wang Qishan, announced tentative plans to step down from the Communist Party despite opposition from President Xi Jinping. At 69 years old, he is one year past the customary retirement age. However, Xi has emphasized that this is not a "hard and fast rule", leading many to question whether he is setting the precedent for a third term.

Further, analysts forecasted this week that China's largest-ever turnover of military elite could take place during this cycle. Says Brookings Institution Director Cheng Li, "Xi Jinping's bold, years-long campaign against corruption has already reached high into the ranks of the military elite—purging "tigers" like Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC)—which perhaps points to the sweeping scale of change that is underway."

As tightly-controlled announcements are released, Beijing continues to ensure domestic stability by shortening the reins on its populace. Last week, the government shut down multiple news and entertainment programs until after the Congress has concluded. Regardless of the precautionary steps Beijing takes, many, like the European business lobby, are hoping that "new leadership to emerge from China's Communist Party meeting will show a commitment to market opening" and hopefully another prosperous 5 years.

For the latest issue of China This Week, an exclusive weekly review and analysis of major trends and developments impacting the China-U.S. relations, please visit here.

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