The Communist Party of China (CPC) on Wednesday selected a new Central Committee, marking the end of Hu Jintao’s ten-year term as General Secretary and paving the way for Thursday’s unveiling of the new leadership.

The party’s National Congress, a once-in-five-year meeting, concluded at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday morning after its 2,300 or so delegates cast secret ballots for choosing the members of the 18th Central Committee, the 370-member policy-making body.

Following a meeting of the members of the new Central Committee on Thursday, the CPC will unveil the next Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) – its elite inner circle of leaders and the party’s highest authority.

Addressing the closing session of the Congress, Mr. Hu, who has stepped down as the party’s General Secretary following a decade at the helm, told the delegates that the party was “convinced that all the decisions and plans adopted [at the Congress]… will play an important role in guiding the all-around development of the great cause of Socialism with Chinese characteristics and the great new undertaking of Party building”.

“The Congress,” he said in a closing address, “elected a new Central Committee of the Party and replaced older leaders with younger ones”.

New leadership

Vice-President Xi Jinping is expected to be named as the CPC’s next General Secretary on Thursday morning. Mr. Hu will, however, continue as President until March, when the Chinese Parliament will meet. The party will also name a new Central Military Commission – the highest military authority – which is currently headed by Mr. Hu. It is, as yet, still unclear if Mr. Hu will also immediately relinquish his post as head of the body. His predecessor, Jiang Zemin, held on to the post for two years.

Mr. Xi and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as Premier, are the only members of the current nine-member PBSC who will hold on to their positions on the top body.

Both leaders were among the 300 or so officials chosen by the delegates of the Congress as members of the new Central Committee, the official Xinhua news agency reported. While the CPC has not yet made public the list of candidates at Wednesday’s selection process, Xinhua said at least eight per cent of those nominated had been eliminated following the secret ballot.

Xinhua listed eight other top leaders – all members of the current Politburo and likely candidates for the next PBSC – who had been selected as members of the Central Committee.

The list included three officials close to the former President Jiang Zemin, who are seen as front-runners for posts on the body – Zhang Gaoli, Zhang Dejiang and Yu Zhengsheng, the party chiefs of the municipalities of Tianjin, Chongqing and Shanghai.

The Congress also selected the composition of the next Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the powerful internal disciplinary body. Politburo member Wang Qishan, another official seen as close to Mr. Jiang and, like Mr. Zhang Dejiang and Mr. Yu, a “princeling” – as relatives of former leaders are known – was selected as a member of both the Central Committee and the CCDI, Xinhua reported, making him a likely member of the next PBSC, which is usually represented by an official in charge of the disciplinary body.

The other current Politburo members selected to the next Central Committee were Li Yuanchao and Liu Yunshan, two officials who rose through the Communist Youth League where Mr. Hu has allies. State Councillor Liu Yandong, the only female member of the current Politburo, and Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang, were also selected, Xinhua said. Both officials also rose through the Youth League.

In recent months, Mr. Hu and Mr. Jiang, the former President, have been pushing to secure posts on the body for their allies. The next PBSC, which will be unveiled on Thursday, is expected to be drawn from these eight officials, who will join Mr. Xi and Mr. Li on the top body. While the current PBSC is made up of nine members, the CPC is said to considering reducing the size of the body to seven.

Constitution amended

The Congress on Wednesday also approved the outgoing Central Committee’s work report and amendments to the party constitution. Both resolutions were passed unanimously, without a single dissenting vote from the 2,325 delegates. When Mr. Hu asked if any of the delegations had any objections, every delegate replied in the negative, in a reflection of how tightly choreographed the week-long Congress has been.

In a resolution approving the work report, the Congress “emphasised the need to speed up…the change of the growth model and make development based more on improved quality and performance.” It called for more balanced, domestic-driven and innovation-led development - a move away from the current export-driven and State investment-led model.

Without listing any specific measures, the resolution called for “promoting reform of the political structure”. It stressed the need to “ensure the unity of the leadership of the Party” while carrying out political reforms.

The Congress also approved amendments to the party’s constitution that were along expected lines. Cementing outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao’s legacy in the party, it approved including in the constitution Mr. Hu’s doctrine, called the “Scientific Outlook on Development”, which stresses balanced growth.

A resolution approving the amendments said it “unanimously agreed that along with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents [the ideology promoted by former leader Jiang Zemin], the Scientific Outlook on Development should be made a part of the Party’s guide for action in the party constitution”. A statement stressing the need “to give high priority to making ecological progress” would be included in the constitution.

Another amendment to the constitution called for the party to “attach greater importance to conducting oversight of cadres”, reflecting rising concerns on corruption. The expulsion in September of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, also a “princeling” leader, underscored the rampant corruption even in the party’s highest ranks, particularly among the relatives of influential leaders.

“The party should select its cadres on the basis of both moral integrity and professional competence, with priority given to the former,” the amendment said, “and appoint cadres on their merits without regard to their origins.”

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