No surprises as China congress chooses key committee

Updated 14 November 2012
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No surprises as China congress chooses key committee

BEIJING: China’s president-in-waiting and the country’s next premier began the carefully scripted, final ascent to the top echelon of power on Wednesday as a Communist Party Congress elevated them to a key ruling council.
Xinhua news agency confirmed that Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang were both elected to the party’s central committee at the end of the week-long meeting, a result that was never really in doubt.
“The congress elected a new central committee of the party and replaced older leaders with younger ones,” outgoing President Hu Jintao told the closing ceremony of the congress, a mix of model workers, CEOs, soldiers and ethnic minorities in traditional clothing, all loyal party members.
The leadership changes have been thrashed out in advance through horse-trading between party elders and retiring leaders anxious to preserve political power and protect family interests, but must go through a choreographed election process at the congress.
The 2,270 carefully vetted delegates cast their votes behind closed doors in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People for the new committee of 205 full members and 170 or so alternate members with no voting rights.
The committee will in turn, on Thursday, appoint a Politburo of about two dozen members and a Politburo Standing Committee, the innermost ring of power with possibly seven members, reduced from the current nine.
Xi has long been expected to take over from Hu, first as party chief at this congress and then as president when parliament meets for its annual session in March, completing the party’s second orderly succession since it took power in 1949.
Both he and Li are sure to be on the standing committee. Another person who now seems sure to make it to the committee is financial guru Wang Qishan, but as head of the party’s fight against corruption, after being elected on to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
One lingering question that will also be answered on Thursday is whether Hu could continue to wield power if he hangs on to his role as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the supreme decision-making body for China’s nuclear-armed 2.3 million-strong military.
Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, only relinquished the post two years after handing the reins of the party to Hu in 2002.
Li is Premier Wen Jiabao’s designated heir, and one of his main roles will be overseeing the world’s second-largest economy.
All the other eight leading officials who have been tipped as possible members of the standing committee also made it on to the central committee, including Wang Qishan, according to Xinhua.
That includes North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang, minister of the party’s organization department Li Yuanchao, Tianjin’s party boss Zhang Gaoli, and the conservative Liu Yunshan, who has kept domestic media on a tight leash.
Wang Yang, Guangdong province’s reform-minded party boss, Shanghai party chief Yu Zhengsheng and Liu Yandong, the lone woman among the contenders, were elected to the central committee as well.
The final make-up of the standing committee will not be known for sure until the new leaders emerge at a brief ceremony in the Great Hall on Thursday.
Although the central committee chooses the Politburo and the standing committee, possibly with more candidates than seats for the first time, the outcomes have already been decided at this point by the party’s power-brokers, sources with ties to the leadership have told Reuters.
More than slogans, the membership of these elite bodies should foretell economic and political policy direction in the years ahead, how much influence Hu will retain and who, looking a decade ahead, could be China’s next leaders.
It could give an idea of China’s political and economic direction, especially if it ends up being dominated by conservatives instead of those with a reputation to push reform.
“We must be prepared for some really bad news,” said Wang Zhengxu, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham’s School of Contemporary Chinese Studies in Britain.
“The conservative old guys may get all the really good seats and those we think of as colorful, capable guys get the poorer jobs.”
Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.
After days of turgid speeches and rhetorical displays of party unity, the five-yearly congress also unanimously approved Hu’s “state of the nation” work report and approved a revision to the party charter further enshrining Hu’s theory of sustainable and equitable development.
Hu told delegates that “we should free up our minds (and) implement the policy of reform” before the closing ceremony ended with playing of Internationale, the traditional Communist anthem.
The party amended its guiding charter to tighten oversight of officials, a move reflecting the depth of concern about abuse of power in the wake of a scandal involving former political heavyweight Bo Xilai.
Hu’s work report warned that corruption threatened the party’s rule and the state, but said the party must stay in charge as it battles growing social unrest.
Previous transitions have been tainted by purges, plots and bloodshed — including Jiang’s appointment as party chief after the crackdown on protests around Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Tiananmen Square, next to the Great Hall, has been decked out with large red flags and huge television screens showing clunky propaganda films all week, as the rest of city was put under a tight ring of security.


Kim and Moon to meet at military demarcation line before inter-Korea summit

Updated 12 min 18 sec ago
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Kim and Moon to meet at military demarcation line before inter-Korea summit

  • When Kim Jong Un steps over the line he will become the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ended 65 years ago
  • Kim will be given a military honor guard on Friday and the two leaders will walk to the Peace House, a glass and concrete building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom

SEOUL: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s president Moon Jae-in will meet at the Military Demarcation Line that divides the peninsula before their summit Friday, Seoul said, in an occasion laden with symbolism.
Moon will greet his visitor at the concrete blocks that mark the border between the two Koreas in the Demilitarized Zone, the chief of the South’s presidential secretariat Im Jong-seok said.
When Kim steps over the line he will become the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
The meeting will be only the third of its kind, following summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, and the high point so far of a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the tension-wracked peninsula, ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
The North’s nuclear arsenal will be high on the agenda. Pyongyang has made rapid progress in its weapons development under Kim, who inherited power from his father in 2011.
Last year it carried out its sixth nuclear blast, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, sending tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.
Moon seized on the South’s Winter Olympics as an opportunity to try to broker dialogue between them.
But Im played down expectations, saying that the North’s technological advances meant deal would need to be “fundamentally different in nature from denuclearization agreements reached in the 1990s and early 2000s.”
“That’s what makes this summit all the more difficult,” he added.
“The difficult part is at what level the two leaders will be able to reach an agreement regarding (the North’s) willingness to denuclearize,” he said, “and how it will be expressed in text.”
In the past, North Korean support for the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” has been code for the removal of US troops from the South and the end of its nuclear umbrella over its security ally — prospects unthinkable in Washington.
Trump has demanded the North give up its weapons, and Washington is pressing for it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.
Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said that the issue was “not something that can be decided between the North and South.”
“North Korea will want to see first what kind of offer it will get on regime security guarantees,” he said.
“That will be discussed at the US-North Korea summit and it’s not easy to promise denuclearization before any concrete talks on that.”
In recent days Seoul has promoted the idea of a path toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which stopped with a cease-fire, but Im did not mention the issue.
Reunions of families left divided by the conflict could also be discussed, and Moon has told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would raise the emotive subject of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North’s agents.
Kim will be given a military honor guard on Friday and the two leaders will walk to the Peace House, a glass and concrete building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom where the summit will be held.
Kim will sign the guest book before the morning session starts, Im said, describing the occasion as a “summit for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
The North’s group will cross back to its side for lunch, and before the afternoon session Moon and Kim will together plant “a pine tree, which stands for peace and prosperity, on the (Military Demarcation Line), which has symbolized confrontation and division over the past 65 years,” Im said.
The soil will come from Mount Paektu, on the North’s border with China, and Mount Halla, on the South’s southern island of Jeju.
After they sign an agreement a joint statement will be issued.
“We are thinking it could be called the ‘Panmunjom Declaration’,” Im added.
A banquet and farewell ceremony will follow in the evening before Kim returns to the North.
Pyongyang’s delegation will include Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, one of his closest advisers, who attended the Winter Olympics in the South in February as his envoy.
The North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, who accompanied Yo Jong to the Games, will also be part of the group, as will its foreign and defense ministers.
“Unlike in the past, the delegation includes top military official and diplomats,” Im said.
“We did not expect this. We believe it signals that North Korea views the summit not just as a North-South summit but is also considering the US-North Korea summit.”