Xi Jinping, who will succeed Hu Jintao as China's president, shakes hands with party officials in Beijing on June 20. (Photo/Xinhua)
Plans to reduce the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party from nine members to seven have been submitted to the country's former president Jiang Zemin for review and will be determined at the party's summer meeting at Beidaihe later this month, reports Duowei, a news website operated by overseas Chinese.
Rumors of the streamlining of China's ultimate decision-making body have been circulating for months. Insiders told Duowei that the proposal has been gaining ground and has gradually become the consensus within the party. If the plan becomes reality, it will mean fewer places at the top table of power will become available following the once-in-a-decade leadership transition set for this fall at the party's 18th National Congress than were previously expected.
An independent source told Duowei that the shift from nine to seven is a done deal barring some unforeseen incident. An earlier story from the website said that nearly 300 former and current senior officials gathered in Beijing in early May to nominate candidates for the next Politburo (a total of 25 members, including nine on the standing committee). Participants were reportedly asked to name five candidates for the standing committee.
Historically, the number of members on the standing committee has ranged from five to 11 at different times. It now seems set to revert to seven, the number of members during Jiang Zemin's leadership from 1993 to 2003. They will comprise Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over from Hu Jintao as the party's secretary-general and China's president, plus Li Keqiang, who is set to take over as premier from Wen Jiabao, plus five others.
The view is that the more members there are on the committee, the more interest groups there will be which could impede future reforms. Seven members therefore is seen as the optimum number for preserving the group decision-making process in the most efficient manner. The places on the standing committee currently occupied by the party's propaganda chief and the head of the political and legal commission are the two likely be removed.
Senior officials as well as Jiang Zemin are believed to have decided the lineup of the next leadership generation at the meeting at the Beidaihe resort in Hebei between July and August last year. As Hu's successor, Xi Jinping will consult with the current president before making a final decision on the lineup, while the still-influential Jiang will be an adviser to review all candidates, in line with the party's practice of ensuring continuity of policy and a smooth planned transition of power.
Jiang Zemin 江澤民
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Xi Jinping 習近平
Li Keqiang 李克強