| Hostesses at Tiananmen Square during the meeting on Sunday. (Reuters)
Beijing, Oct. 14 (Reuters): Chinese President Hu Jintao is set to emerge from the Communist Party congress commanding a new leadership core that reflects both his dominance and his careful calculus for preserving power and unity.
The stolid ritual of the congress, which opens on Monday with Hu’s recital of achievements sure to draw dutiful applause from the 2,200 delegates, is a show of unity by the party that governs over 1.3 billion people and the world’s fourth biggest economy.
But the five-yearly meeting is also when Hu must take the potentially divisive step of shedding colleagues installed under his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and promoting younger leaders likely to form the party’s “fifth generation”.
The meeting is set to promote two provincial leaders in their early 50s — Xi Jinping of Shanghai and Li Keqiang of the northeastern province Liaoning — to a nine-seat politburo standing committee, putting them in the wings as likely successors to Hu and government chief Premier Wen Jiabao five years hence, sources told Reuters.
The usually submissive congress will vote in a fresh central committee, a council with hundreds of members that at the end of the Congress will endorse a new politburo and politburo standing committee, the innermost circle of power.
Hu has dominated the recruitment process but, reflecting a desire to avoid rifts, he has also been willing to promote officials without strong ties to himself yet acceptable to other elite constituencies, officials and analysts said.
“Hu is prudent enough to make the process one of collective appointment, not personal anointment,” said You Ji of the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
“He wants loyalty for sure — anyone does — but I think he’s clever enough to see the peril of promoting too many people into the top leadership who are only his people.”
The standing committee line-up revealed after the congress ends in about a week is thus likely to mimic the style Hu has set in the past five years: low-key, wary of ideological drama and preferring collective decision-making.
“I view this leadership as a tyranny of the middle,” said Frederick Teiwes of the University of Sydney.
Hu and other members of the party’s elite carry a heavy burden of historical lessons. They are custodians of a communist state that has survived even while it embraced capitalism and even as most others collapsed.
They experienced early adulthood during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when the revolutionary founder threw the country into radical chaos stoked by his paranoia of leadership disloyalty.
They later watched as rifts between party elders and reformist leaders fuelled contention climaxing in the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Those experiences have fostered a powerful ethos of conformity, stability and unity around a leader, said Teiwes. Reformist patriarch Deng Xiaoping favoured Hu to succeed Jiang precisely because of his ability to skirt friction.