November 14, 2012
BEIJING — Communist party officials have wrapped up a once in a five year congress by agreeing amending the party's charter to tighten corruption oversight of officials. The conclusion of the meetings is but the beginning of China's once-in-a-decade political transition.
After several hours of waiting, crowded in the hallways and lobbies of the cavernous Great Hall of the People, reporters were ushered into the auditorium for a closing ceremony of the National People's Congress.
Rows of officials sat almost motionless on the stage as a report outlining the meetings' accomplishments was read. Delegates voted unanimously in support of a slate of proposed amendments to the party's constitution or charter.
One key amendment changes the charter to increase scrutiny of officials, a move that highlights the party's deep concerns about corruption. Once-in-a-decade leadership transitions in China are typically smooth and tightly choreographed. However, this time around, the entire process and the party has been shaken by the impact of a scandal involving once-rising political star Bo Xilai.
The party has called on members to observe high ethical standards and to be an example. Those calls for more scrutiny resonated with congress delegate Jin Yaping.
"I think the government needs to increase its strength of supervision," said Jin. "How can we do it? I think we need to change it from the systemic level. We need to start from the grassroots"
Delegates endorsed former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's notion of “gaige kaifang” or “reform and opening” as the path to a stronger China. The congress noted that there was no turning back from that path of economic reform that has already guided China to achieve its rapid development in the past three decades and see it rise to become the world's second largest economy.
Outgoing President Hu Jintao's theory of promoting equitable and sustainable development was also added to the party charter, a move that seeks to cement his legacy. When Jiang Zemin stepped down as president in 2002, his “Three Represents” theory, an idea that paved the way for entrepreneurs to join the party, was also added to the party charter.
Leaving a legacy can help party leaders continue to ensure their influence is felt well after they have left office and gives them sway in determining China's future leaders.
But such symbolism and internal political intrigue is far removed from the concerns of most Chinese.
Huang Lei says that, although he supports China's leaders, his main focus is life is doing his job well and earning money.
“We finish work late at night everyday and do not have time to pay much attention to the congress,” he said.
Huang did say that he paid attention to President Hu Jintao's pledge to double incomes, by 2020.
Hao Qingsheng, a 55-year-old photographer agreed.
“I am just a common person, I only care about how living a good life, earning some money and being able to spend it, too. I do not pay attention to much else,” he said.
Another man, a party member who wished to remain anonymous says that he believes things will continue to get better, but adds that there is still room for improvement. He says taxes and health care are two issues he concerned about.
“I think that it is not important who they choose," he stated. "The important thing will be what the government does and not who one person is.”
On the last day of the congress, the more than 2,200 delegates voted to elect a new Central Committee for the party. One key task of the central committee, which has 200 full members, is to appoint a politburo of a few dozen members and politburo standing committee.
The politburo standing committee is China's inner most circle of leaders and is expected to include between seven and nine members with rising communist leader Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang at its center.
The members of the standing committee will be revealed for the first time Thursday. Xi Jinping is widely expected to take over for Hu Jintao has head of the party and then, later, assume his role as president in March of next year.