Understanding the 19th National Congress of
China's Communist Party

China's Communist Party will hold its National Congress from October 18th.
Major decisions on the party's leadership and basic policies are made at this meeting, held only once every 5 years.
Attention is focused on where President Xi Jinping will lead the country as he enters his second term.
We offer a detailed and in-depth analysis, starting from the very basics.
Understanding the 19th National Congress of China's Communist Party

What is the Communist Party Congress?

The Chinese Communist Party's National Congress is held once every 5 years in the capital Beijing. It is an extremely important event in China's political calendar.

The 19th National Congress will open on October 18th, with 2,300 delegates in attendance. They were chosen from the nearly 90 million members of the party.

The convention will make major decisions regarding the party's direction. It will also elect about 200 members for the Central Committee, who will then pick the top leadership.

In the previous National Congress, the newly-elected Central Committee voted to promote Xi Jinping to the party's top post. He replaced Hu Jintao as the General Secretary.

Who are Politburo Standing Comm. members?

The Politburo Standing Committee is China's most senior leadership body.

It tops the pyramid power structure of the Communist party and currently consists of 7 members, sometimes referred to as the "China Seven."

They serve under President Xi Jinping, who's also the party leader.

The party is the sole one in power in a country of 1.3 billion people. It is known for its collective leadership system in which the PSC is said to decide on important issues by majority vote. That is why its number of members is customarily odd.

In 1992 and 1997, the congress chose 7 members, while in 2002 and 2007, it picked 9. In 2012, the number was cut back to 7.

How the leadership members are selected

The Communist Party's Central Committee chooses China's leader. It holds a meeting after the party congress closes.

The committee consists of about 200 senior party officials.

It selects roughly 20 members of the party's Political Bureau, and from there, picks those who will make up the Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi Jinping was selected as General Secretary in that process 5 years ago.

Members of the party's Central Military Commission, which takes the helm of the People's Liberation Army, are also chosen.

But the process is a formality.

The actual leadership selection is considered to take place behind closed doors at an unofficial meeting of sitting and retired high-profile party officials. The meeting is held in Beidaihe, a popular summer retreat in northern China, in the summer ahead of the party congress.

It is a regular practice for the general secretary to introduce the new politburo standing committee members to reporters after the Central Committee meeting closes.

About China's Communist Youth League

The Communist Youth League of China is an organization run by the country's Communist Party to nurture young people between the ages of 14 to 28.

The youth league is said to be an elite institution, as many members who take senior positions later become party leaders.

Among those who have held the league's top position of First Secretary are former President Hu Jintao and Premier Li Keqiang.

Possible new leaders include the party chief of Guangdong Province Hu Chunhua, who also held the top youth post.

The youth league members are said to forge strong bonds within the Communist Party. One of the party's factions consists of former group members.

Xi Jinping faction

Since Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of the Communist Party at the previous party congress 5 years ago, people who are seen as close to Xi have been appointed to key party positions.

They include former subordinates of Xi, who served as governor of the Province of Fujian and as party head of Zhejiang Province.

The move was accelerated after Xi was positioned as the party's "core leader" last year.

In July, Chen Min'er was appointed party chief of the Chongqing Municipal Committee. He served as head of Zhejiang's Publicity Department when Xi was the head of the province.

In May, Cai Qi was appointed the party chief of Beijing in an unusually quick promotion. He used to work under Xi for many years in Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces.

Observers say Xi apparently aims to consolidate his power base by putting his allies in key positions.

All eyes will be watching to see whether people close to Xi are appointed to key posts at the upcoming party congress.

Retirement age

It has been the Communist Party's practice that members of the Politburo Standing Committee, who are 68 or older, retire at a Party Congress held every 5 years.

According to this practice, most of the current 7 committee members -- except President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang -- are supposed to step down.

But there is speculation that Xi might break with the convention and keep Wang Qishan, who is leading Xi's anti-corruption campaign, on the top leadership body.

Analysts say that would pave the way for Xi to remain top leader even after his next 5-year-term.