New Delhi: At a time when India and China have been locked in a stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh for six months, the Communist Party of China is set to organise the fifth plenary session of its 19th Central Committee in Beijing.
The plenary, which begins Monday and runs for four days, is being organised to discuss the 14th five-year plan for 2021-25, and a medium-term strategy named as ‘Vision 2035’.
Reports say the new working rules are expected to be approved for the Central Committee, which will eventually give more powers to the top leadership, thereby making President Xi Jinping an all-powerful leader.
China has a one-party Communist system, and hence, the CPC is all-powerful. This is why India had attempted to reach out to the party at the peak of the LAC tensions, after the Galwan Valley clash between the troops on 15 June, even as talks were on at the military and diplomatic levels.
India’s Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, had held a series of meetings with senior Chinese officials in August, including Major General Ci Guowei, director of the Office of International Military Cooperation of the Central Military Commission, and Liu Jianchao, deputy director of the Office of the CPC Central Committee Foreign Affairs Commission.
The world is also watching the CPC plenary keenly, because after the Covid-19 outbreak began in Wuhan and became a pandemic, many countries, especially the US, have begun standing up to an aggressive China.
In its raging ‘trade war’ against China, the Donald Trump administration had come down heavily on the CPC and the way it functions.
At a meeting in Hawaii in June this year, US Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo told Chinese State Councillor and top diplomat Yang Jiechi: “It’s no longer enough to listen to what the CPC is saying. We can see their actions. I ticked through a few of them: Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, what they’re doing in India, what they’ve done in the economic zones along the Philippines and Malaysia and Indonesia and Vietnam, the coercion on Australia — when they had the audacity to demand that there would be an investigation of how this virus got from Wuhan to Milan, how this virus got from Wuhan to Tehran, how this virus got from Wuhan to Oklahoma City, and to Belgium and to Spain, and decimating the global economy.”
ThePrint explains the structure of the CPC, and which of its organs hold most of the power in China.
History & structure of CPC
The CPC, with its 99-year-history, is one of the world’s largest political organisations — it claims to have an estimated 90 million members, but was surpassed a few years ago by India’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
China follows a system of democratic socialism — the CPC is in total control of the country, from government to the police to the military.
Since its foundation in 1921 in Shanghai, the CPC was mired in deep differences, until a civil war erupted with the rival Kuomintang. The Communists finally grasped power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong.
The party’s guiding principles are enshrined in its constitution, whose general programme states: “The Communist Party of China takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as its guide to action.”
The party is divided into three key pillars — the Central Committee, the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).
The Central Committee is the executive organ of the party, resting on five main pillars — International Liaison Department, United Front Works Department, Organisation Department, Publicity Department and Party Central Academy.
However, main power rests with the Politburo Standing Committee or the PSC, which comprises seven top-ranking leaders — President Xi Jinping; Premier Li Keqiang; NPC chairman Li Zhanshu; Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference chairman Wang Yang; Wang Huning, executive secretary of the secretariat and director of the Policy Research Office; Discipline Inspection Commission chairman Zhao Leji; and Executive Vice-Premier Han Zhen
The National Party Congress selects the members of the Central Committee. The Central Committee selects the Politburo, which consists of about 200 members. The Politburo selects the 24-member Standing Committee of the Politburo. These 24 individuals are regarded as the most powerful members of the party.
The State Council is the highest executive and administrative organ of government in China. It is composed of the premier, four vice-premiers, state councillors, and the secretary general. Ministries, commissions, and other groups are under the State Council.
The State Council is similar to executive bodies in other countries whose members are elected by and accountable to the legislature.
“The State Council is responsible for carrying out the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as the regulations and laws adopted by the NPC. The State Council has the power to submit proposals on laws to the NPC and to formulate administrative measures. China’s President is the official head of state but has no day-to-day governance duties,” according to a CSIS report stated.
Apart from the President, it is headed by Vice President Wang Qishan and Premier Li, it has four Vice Premiers, five State Councilors and six Ministers selected by the State Council.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe are two of the five State Councillors.
Central Military Commission
According to China Today, the Central Military Commission (CMC) directs the armed forces of the country, and is composed of the chairman, vice chairmen and members. The chairman of the CMC, currently President Xi himself, is elected to the same length of term as the legislature, the NPC, but there is no restriction on his or her tenure of office.
In other words, it is through the CMC that the party and the government maintain their control over the military.
China’s armed forces consist of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force and the militia.
Xi Jinping’s leadership
Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Central Committee at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.
Ever since Xi was promoted to the top position in November 2012, he has unleashed his vision of the ‘China Dream’. He has said of it: “To realise the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core.”
In October 2017, the Chinese President presided over the 19th National Congress of the CPC as the “most powerful leader in decades”, securing a second five-year term.
According to a report by Council on Foreign Relations, at that meeting, CPC “reaffirmed Xi’s dominance and elevated new officials to support him in setting the agenda for the second-largest economy in the world”.
The National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, amended the constitution in March 2018 and changed the tenure of the President, “paving the way for Xi to remain officially in power beyond 2022”, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ report.
A report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) stated: “Following the 19th Party Congress in October 2017 and the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress in March 2018, there was some substantial turnover in China’s leadership in the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council … The PSC meets more frequently and often makes key decisions with little or no input from the full Politburo.”
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