The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China began on November 8, 2012 in Beijing, China, at the Great Hall of the People. Due to term and age limits restrictions, seven of the nine members of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) retired during the Congress, including Hu Jintao, who was replaced by Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. The Congress elected the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and saw the number of Politburo Standing Committee seats reduced from nine to seven.
The seven PSC members elected during the Congress were Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli. Five of these were identified as associates or having benefited from the patronage of former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin, who reportedly exerted considerable influence in shaping the composition of the new Standing Committee. Only Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan are considered to be members of the tuanpai.
Some 2,270 delegates selected from 40 constituencies attended the Congress. This represented an increase of 57 delegates and two constituencies from the 17th Congress. 31 of these constituencies represent China's province-level jurisdictions. Six other delegations represented Taiwan, the People's Liberation Army, Central Party organizations, Central Government Ministries and Commissions, State Owned Enterprises, and Central Banks and Financial Institutions. The remaining three delegations are the subject of conflicting accounts. Hong Kong and Macau may represent two delegations or one delegation or they may be treated as part of the Guangdong delegation. Other delegations that have been identified by various sources include the Peoples Armed Police, units involved in “social management”, the public service sector, workers in private enterprises, and workers in foreign and joint enterprises. No more than 68% of the delegates may hold leadership positions within the party. The remaining 32% will be "grassroots" party members who hold jobs outside of the party apparatus. The number of females increased from the previous congress. Each delegation will be selected (by the province level congresses) in an election in which there are at least 15% more candidates than there are delegates to be selected. The candidates in these elections are heavily vetted by multiple party organs. In addition to these 2,270 delegates, an uncertain number of additional delegates, primarily retired veteran Communist leaders, will be selected. At the 17th National Congress there were 57 such delegates.
The Congress ratified changes to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The Scientific Outlook on Development of the Hu Jintao era was listed next to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and Three Represents as a "guiding ideology" of the party, 'upgraded' from simply an ideology to merely "follow and implement" when it was initially written into the constitution in 2007. The Scientific Outlook on Development was said to be the "latest product Marxism being adopted in the Chinese context," and the result of the "collective wisdom of the party membership."
The affirmation of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics as a "system" (zhidu) was written into the party constitution for the first time. The "construction of ecological civilization" (shengtai wenming) as a major goal of the party was also written into the party constitution, an extension from the previous version of the constitution which included economic, political, cultural, and social realms; this ostensibly increased the attention the party intended to focus on the environment.
|Xi Jinping||1953||Overall policy framework, foreign affairs, Taiwan,
national security, internet, military
|Li Keqiang||1955||Government operations, policy implementation,
economic reform, climate change
|Zhang Dejiang||1946||Legislation, Hong Kong and Macau|
|Yu Zhengsheng||1945||Civic organizations, ethnic minority affairs, Tibet and Xinjiang|
|Liu Yunshan||1947||Party organization, ideological doctrine, propaganda|
|Wang Qishan||1948||Internal regulations, party discipline, anti-corruption|
|Zhang Gaoli||1946||Strategic initiatives, mega-projects|
It was widely speculated that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang would succeed Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao as top Politburo Standing Committee members by November 2012, and take over the Presidency and Premiership in March 2013 at the National People's Congress. Since 2002, all Standing Committee members had retired if they were 68 or older at the time of a party congress. As a result of this largely unspoken convention, it was expected that all other members of the outgoing standing committee would have to retire at the 18th Congress. About 70% of the members of the Central Military Commission and the executive committee of the State Council would also turn over in 2012; in addition, every member of the 17th Central Committee born before 1945 relinquished their Central Committee membership at the Congress. The Congress marked the most significant leadership transition in decades.
Chinese politics prior to the 18th National Congress trended towards "collective leadership", where the paramount leader had to share power with his circle of senior leaders in the Politburo Standing Committee, particularly the Premier. Thus ultimately the paramount leader was not expected to have the same amount of power accorded to it during the era of Mao and Deng. The practice of governing through consensus within the Politburo Standing Committee became the norm following the 16th Party Congress in 2002. During that Congress, the size of the Standing Committee was increased from seven members to nine, with Luo Gan and Li Changchun being added to handle the law enforcement and propaganda portfolios, respectively. However, these two factors led to inefficiencies in the decision-making process. In order to improve the efficacy of the Standing Committee, the 18th Party Congress was expected to end in a return to a smaller, seven-member committee. The propaganda and public security portfolios were expected to be downgraded to the level of the Politburo.
Apart from the largely pre-ordained selection of Xi and Li for its top two positions, intense speculation mounted over who else might join the standing committee. Two unexpected events upset the carefully balanced political equilibrium in the lead up to the Congress. The Wang Lijun incident in early 2012 no longer made former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai a viable candidate for the PSC, and "Ferrari crash" of the son of Ling Jihua, a top aide of Hu Jintao, was said to have reduced Hu's bargaining power in the leadership selection process. Initial speculation placed Yu Zhengsheng, Zhang Dejiang, Li Yuanchao, Wang Qishan, and Wang Yang on the new standing committee. However, Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang, largely seen as belonging to the 'liberal' wing of the party, were ultimately not selected. Instead, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli joined the standing committee. Liu, a former propaganda department head, took over as both the head of the party's Central Secretariat and the top official in charge of propaganda, and was seen as the most strongly conservative member in the new PSC. Zhang, a bookish party bureaucrat known for presiding over economic growth in numerous regions, was ostensibly selected for his technocratic competence. It should be noted that apart from Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, all the other members of the new standing committee were born in the late 1940s and therefore would need to retire at the 19th Party Congress if the informally mandated retirement rules still holds in 2017. Li Yuanchao (born 1950) and Wang Yang (born 1955) ostensibly could still join the 19th standing committee at that time.
The new standing committee was noted for the diverse regional experience of its members. Apart from Liu Yunshan, every member of the new PSC had some experience serving in provincial-level positions prior to ascending to the apex of political power; all of them at one point had been a provincial party chief. Xi served in Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai, Li Keqiang served in Henan and Liaoning, Zhang Dejiang served in Jilin, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Chongqing, Yu Zhengsheng served in Hubei and Shanghai, Wang Qishan served in Guangdong, Hainan, and Beijing, and Zhang Gaoli served in Guangdong, Shandong and Tianjin.
The 18th Politburo Standing Committee was formed on 15 November 2012, the newly formed Politburo Standing Committee consisted of (in order ranking) Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, from the 17th Central Committee, in addition to newcomers:
The 18th Politburo was also named at the Congress. Within the 17th Politburo, eleven members were born after 1945. Of these, seven were named to the Standing Committee (see above); and the remaining three, Liu Yandong, Li Yuanchao, and Wang Yang, retained their Politburo seats. Bo Xilai was suspended from the Politburo prior to the Congress. All 14 members of the 17th Politburo born prior to 1945 relinquished their Politburo membership due to having reached the mandatory retirement age of 68 at the time of the Congress. Conversely, this also meant that all members of the 17th Politburo born after 1945 (except Bo Xilai) maintained their Politburo membership.
Since the majority of members of the 17th Politburo retired at the Congress, some fifteen seats on the 18th Politburo were to be filled by newcomers. Notable additions to the Politburo included Wang Huning, who became the first head of the party's Central Policy Research Office to hold a seat on the Politburo; Li Zhanshu, former Guizhou party chief who took over as head of the party's General Office; Meng Jianzhu, former Minister of Public Security who took on the portfolio of the Central Legal and Political Affairs Commission; and Hu Chunhua and Sun Zhengcai, two officials born after 1960 who took on major regional party leadership posts in Guangdong and Chongqing, respectively, following the Congress.
By convention, the members are listed in stroke order of surnames.
The Secretariat, mainly overseeing party affairs and acting as the day-to-day executive arm of the Central Committee, was led by PSC member Liu Yunshan, who also held the post of President of the Central Party School. Liu Qibao, Zhao Leji, and Li Zhanshu earned seats on the Secretariat, as was anticipated for the heads of the Propaganda, Organization, and General Office. Zhao Hongzhu succeeded He Yong's place on the secretariat as the top-ranked Deputy Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Departing from the previous composition of the body, Du Qinglin, outgoing United Front Department chief, who held no other post at the time (he was later elected a ceremonial Vice-Chair of the CPPCC in March 2013), was elevated to the Secretariat. Similarly, Yang Jing, ethnic Mongol and former Chairman of Inner Mongolia, who would go on to be named Secretary-General of the State Council, 'broke convention' and earned a seat on the Secretariat, signalling that the top government organ, the State Council, will work in closer coordination with the Party.