The party congress went much as scripted. The surprise would have been if it hadn’t.
President Hu Jintao got his “scientific concept of development” enshrined in the constitution, continuing the tradition of each leader adding his own embellishment to the country’s guiding principles. He also cleared the way for reshaping the party’s politburo standing committee — the nine people who really run China — by removing Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and two other senior politicians Luo Gan and Wu Guazheng from the party’s central committee, making them ineligible for reelection to the standing committee for further five year terms.
Zeng was both a princeling (offspring of a revolutionary veteran) and an old associate of Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin. So was Wu, though he buttered his bread with the times, acting as the enforcer for both Jiang and Hu in the role of overseeing party discipline. He turns 70 next year.
Luo, who is 72, oversaw national security and was responsible for implementing the anti-crime campaign that has led to an increasing number of executions. He was a long-time ally of Jiang’s prime minister Li Peng.
Two vice premiers, Wu Yi and Zeng Peiyan, and defense minister Cao Gangchuan have also been put out to pasture.
This is being portrayed in western media as Hu tightening his hold on power, though after five years in office and the likely halfway point in his term, he already has a pretty firm grip. The clearing out of the Jiang old guard has been underway for some time.
Monday sees the secret ballot for the all-important politburo. Two names to look for are Shanghai party chief Xi Jinping and his counterpart in Liaoning, Li Keqiang. Both men, who are 54 years ofd and 52 years old respectively, are talked of as being successors to Hu when the 18th party congress meets in 2012.
None of this jockeying for power, though, is likely to make much difference to business. China’s economy will next week under the new leadership look much the same as it did last week under the old.