FAST FACTS: China's 18th Communist Party congress
BEIJING, China – China's ruling Communist Party opened its 18th congress in Beijing on Thursday, November 8, a major political event to appoint a new leadership to head the world's most populous nation over the next 10 years.
At the congress, which will end on November 14, more than 2,200 Party delegates from across China are meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, the symbolic center of communist power.
ANOINTING NEW RULERS
– The main task for delegates will be to select a new Central Committee that is made up of about 200 people.
– The Central Committee appoints a Politburo of 25 members and the powerful Central Military Commission, which controls the nation's armed forces.
– The Committee will also appoint the elite Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest decision-making body, comprising 7 to 9 members who will be chosen from within the Politburo.
– The Politburo Standing Committee, China's innermost core of power, is headed by the party's general secretary, the most important post in the country currently held by President Hu Jintao.
The congress is widely expected to appoint Vice President Xi Jinping as the new general secretary. Xi would then replace Hu as president next March.
ELECTION OR SELECTION?
– In theory, the delegates are to elect China's next generation of leaders. But in practice the appointments for senior posts are decided on by top party leaders and retired officials in an opaque bargaining process which intensifies during the months running up to the congress, with elections only held after congress delegates indicate that they will vote for the pre-chosen candidates.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY
– China's Communist Party, made up of 82 million members, is the biggest political party in the world.
– Its first congress, a small gathering of about a dozen people, took place in Shanghai's French concession in 1929 at a school for girls that was closed for vacation.
– Since 2002, the party has insisted congress delegates not only represent the party, but also different social groupings, including capitalist entrepreneurs.
– Since 1977, the party's congresses have been held once every 5 years. None was held between 1956 and 1969, years under Mao Zedong that saw chaotic political upheavals such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. – Agence France-Presse