BEIJING — China has moved another step closer to changing management at the top after a decade with the same president, but any major shift in government policies are not likely to emerge in the near term.
On Wednesday, the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress, an assembly of more than 2,220 carefully selected delegates from around the country, closed out its weeklong meeting in Beijing. The congress, in what was described as a secret ballot, chose a new Central Committee, the group that will then select the Politburo Standing Committee, the core unit of 7-9 members charged with final decision-making powers for China.
That core group will be revealed on Thursday in a staged meeting with the press, where organizers say 200 journalists from among more than 1,500 covering the congress have been hand-picked to see the unveiling. Although China’s leadership transfer is nearly absent of real voting or public debate on issues and candidates, the final roster is still a secret. The only near-certainties are that Vice Premier Xi Jinping will replace current President Hu Jintao as party general secretary, while Li Keqiang, another vice premier, will take over as premier from Wen Jiabao. The final handover will happen in March at the National People’s Congress.
In his final statement to delegates on Wednesday, President Hu stayed close to familiar themes that have been repeated often since the congress convened on Nov. 8. Hu said the Party Congress had developed a “grand blueprint for completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and accelerating socialist modernization.”
The congress “replaced older leaders with younger ones,” said Hu.
“We are convinced that all the decisions and plans adopted and all the achievements made at the congress, which are of major current and far-reaching historical significance, will play an important role in guiding the all-around development of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the great new undertaking of party building,” he continued.
Over the weekend, some of China’s top officials in charge of economic policy spoke to journalists about what might be to come. In typically guarded fashion, they said China intends to press ahead with long-held plans to shift away from manufacturing as a base of the economy and drive instead toward innovation as an economic pillar.
In a news conference with other economic leaders, Zhang Ping, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China’s recent economic slump is beginning to turn around.
Zhang said the central government has scaled back its projections and still expects moderately strong growth this year.
“We have confidence we can realize the targets set at the beginning of the year. Economic growth could still exceed 7.5 percent in spite of major challenges and difficulties,” he said. “But we must not let our guard down. Our foundation is still not firm enough for a rebound, so we should not let up on continued efforts.”
“Given the new challenges in the world economy, we must prepare ourselves for difficulties and challenges in the long run,” he added.