Photographer: Feng Li/Getty Images

China Announces Start Date for Twice-a-Decade Party Reshuffle

  • Ruling Communist Party expected to kick off congress Oct. 18
  • Much of top leadership are slated for replacement at event

The Chinese Communist Party will likely begin its much-anticipated congress on Oct. 18, state media said, officially starting the clock on the country’s biggest political reshuffle since 2012. 

The 19th Party Congress’s proposed start date was announced Thursday after a meeting of the party’s Politburo, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. While the schedule is technically a recommendation and requires approval from the broader Central Committee, that’s usually a formality.

The gathering of some 2,300 party delegates -- held every five years in Beijing -- will provide President Xi Jinping his biggest opportunity to reshuffle scores of top positions across the government and write his policies into the party’s guiding documents. As many as five of the seven officials on the Politburo’s elite Standing Committee -- and roughly half of the broader Central Committee -- could be replaced. 

The Politburo said the congress came during a “critical period of the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” according to Xinhua.

The week-long event will determine Xi’s ability to implement policies such as overhauling the world’s largest military or reducing China’s $33 trillion debt pile. The pageantry begins with a speech by Xi detailing the party’s policies for the next five years and ends with curtain call by the new Standing Committee line-up.

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The brief announcement suggested dates for the meeting, as well as dates for an earlier conclave of China’s outgoing leadership. It noted that preparations for the event were going smoothly. The congress date is expected to be confirmed at a plenary session of the Central Committee on Oct. 11.

While the congress is in theory a decision-making body, the event is heavily stage managed. Still, surprises are common in the run-up to the party congress as behind-the-scene fights spill into public view.

In July, the party chief for the southwestern city of Chongqing, Sun Zhengcai, was unexpectedly removed from his post over alleged disciplinary violations. The one-time presidential contender was replaced with a long-time Xi associate, Chen Miner.

— With assistance by Peter Martin

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