The forthcoming 19th communist party summit

Ever since the communist parties in China and Russia have risen to power, their main summits have attracted much attention, probably due to the fact that these parties mostly work under a cover of secrecy, and when they hold big events in well-known dates, they allegedly allow a peek into the inner workings of the party. Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech”, in which he denounced Joseph Stalin’s leadership on the February 24th, 1956, and its leak by Victor Grayevsky, is the most prominent example to date of the external attempts to understand the inner workings of the communist parties.

Once every 5 years, the communist party’s general summit is held, led by the party’s secretary-general and president in the Chinese capital – which is becoming a bigger and bigger player in the global economy with each passing summit – in order to discuss the country’s future. A “secret speech” isn’t expected to be part of the summit, but the eyes of the entire world look up to it. The congress will take place on October 18th, 2017, with a review by the party’s secretary-general of the party’s success in the past five years, and it will continue for 10 straight days.

China’s unique governmental structure deserves a word or two. This summit, which was first held in 1921, along with the creation of the party, brings the communist party together; the only party in China since it took over control in 1949. The party members (about 88 million) send out representatives (about 2,300) to participate. Every five years the congress appoints the general committee (370 members) which in turn appoint the members of the Politburo (about 25), from which the Politburo standing committee is appointed (7 members) including the president and prime minister. Working in conjunction with the party is the government, responsible for approving the party’s decisions and executing them. Additionally, the party has a representative in almost every organization and business in China.

Similarly, to past years, even before the summits the party makes efforts to tighten its grip over the giant country, a group that seems stronger and stronger, the more the middle class grows. Two main channels are used by the party to tighten this grip, preventive action on one side and distributing positive information about the party on the other. These preventive actions include mainly tightening the overseeing of the internet, including removing content that is inconsistent with the party’s policies, or critical content towards the government or party members.

The communist party holds and controls the main media within China. This media assists to the party and who lead it to distribute all the successes act and policy and to cover any other stories. China Daily devotes every day significant portion of the main page to discuss the next month’s summit. This section quoted a lot of senior Westerns that speaking in praise of the Chinese President and his praise of government strategy and try to predict the decisions that the conference has received.

Without or with these reinforcements and praises of the party’s general-secretary, which also serves as president, along with the rest of the leadership members, they must deal with difficult challenges, many of which will be discussed in the coming summit. In order to encourage growth and cement China as a global trading center, many voices are calling to adopt an even more liberal economic policy regarding external investments. In order to do so, the Chinese authorities must not only face the subject directly, but also make significant moves in all economic branches in order to make them more suited to the standards used in other places in the world. These main moves are: Reforms in companies owned by the government to make them more suited for a multinational competitive environment, adapting the finance and banking systems to a multinational market and regularizing the trade relations between China and the US, becoming ever so complicated with Trump’s election.

Some of the internal Chinese challenges that the summit will discuss are (1) creating jobs for all classes of the population, but mainly for the expanding middle class, many people of which can’t find proper occupations where they live are having a hard time making ends meet. (2) Dealing with population ageing and with the fact that sometimes one young person needs to take care of four adult family members. (3) Closing the gaps between the fast growing social-economic level in the large cities, and the state of the villages; closing the gaps between the luxury tower dwellers and their neighbors having to share a crowded room with 4 or more people. (4) Major upgrade of the agrifood industry to produce more from the crops and remove contaminants from the ground, threatening the quality of food and the health of the Chinese population. (5) Hovering over these four challenges is the need to march the Chinese economy on from an era of copying into an era of innovation and from a manufacturing economy to a service economy; success in this challenge will help the success of all other challenges.

The general challenges which the global community faces, including global warming and climate change, diseases, terror threats and North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, among other global challenges, will be the focus of the summit participators and its leader. The Chinese president, leading the congress and the most populated country in the world along with the second biggest economy, is required to deal with these issues not only for the sake of his country, but also to cement himself as an international leader.

An appropriate and practical response to this list of challenges will be the key to answering the following question; this being the 19th summit, how many more summits are China’s communist party going to have? If the committee will reach clear, practical and precise decisions, pointing to the fact that the leadership can make the economy continue growing and have the citizens enjoy this prosperity, then it appears that the party will continue having its five-yearly summits.


About the Author
Researcher and PhD student at the Middle Eastern studies department, Bar-Ilan University.
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