Chinese Leaders Meet to Settle Succession Issues

Posted August 7th, 2012 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Some of China's top leaders are meeting at a resort near Beijing, reportedly to finalize their selections for the next generation of national leaders to take power later this year.

The decisions made this week at the secretive talks in Beidaihe are not expected to become public until the Communist Party's 18th National Congress convenes, likely in October or November.

Officials holding seven of the nine seats in the Politburo Standing Committee — the party's top decision-making body — are to retire. Among them are President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who are already members of the Standing Committee, are expected to replace them.

The meeting is being held just after a major internal power struggle. Bo Xilai, party leader in the sprawling city of Chongqing and a contender for the Standing Committee, was removed from his post earlier this year.

Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai were accused of being involved in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu goes on trial this week for his murder.

Ken Dowoskin, the director of Deloitte's China Research and Insight Center in Beijing, says party leaders may discuss reducing the size of the Standing Committee from nine members to seven, in an effort to consolidate power following the Bo Xilai scandal.

“I think one probable motivation for that is to simplify the decision making at the top, streamline a little bit and avoid the complexity that you would have with having two more people … Reducing that number, concentrates power (and) will streamline things.”

Dowoskin says none of those considered frontrunners for the Standing Committee are thought to have political leanings that are any different than those they will replace.

Leading candidates include Li Yuanchao, member of the Politburo and head of the party's Organization Department, and Lui Yandong, a member of the Politburo and the State Council. Another likely candidate is Ling Jihua, secretary of the Central Secretariat and the chief of the general office of the CPC Central Committee.

Beidaihe was a regular meeting place for senior party officials until Hu Jintao came to power in 2002. This is the first such meeting since then.

The summit is expected to run into mid-August.