China's economy in focus as it chooses new leaders

China's state news agency says Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang have both been elected to the Communist Party's Central Committee.

The appointments are not a surprise, as Mr Xi has long been expected to take over from President Hu Jintao at the party's congress in Beijing.

China's ruling Communist Party will tomorrow unveil the political figures expected to lead the country for the next decade, after a more than week-long congress involving some 2,200 delegates.

ANOINTING NEW RULERS - The main task for delegates to the congress on Wednesday is to select a new Central Committee that will be made up of about 200 people.

- The Central Committee will then meet on Thursday to choose the roughly 25-member Politburo and the powerful Central Military Commission, which controls the nation's armed forces.

- The elite Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest decision-making body, is expected to comprise between seven and nine members and will be chosen from within the Politburo.

- The party's general secretary, the most important post in the country and currently held by President Hu Jintao, also will be revealed.

- The congress is widely expected to appoint Vice President Xi Jinping as the new party leader, putting him on course to replace Hu as president next March.

ELECTION OR SELECTION? - In theory, the congress delegates are to elect China's next generation of leaders.

But in practice, the appointments for senior posts are decided by top party leaders and retired officials in an opaque bargaining process that intensifies during the months running up to the congress.

Elections are only held after congress delegates indicate that they will vote for the pre-chosen candidates.

THE MIGHTY COMMUNIST PARTY - China's Communist Party, made up of 82 million members, is the biggest political party in the world.

- Its first congress, a small gathering of about a dozen people, took place in Shanghai's French concession in 1929 at a school for girls that was closed for vacation.

It is now held at Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, the symbolic centre of communist power.

- Since 2002, the party has insisted congress delegates not only represent the party, but also different social groupings, including capitalist entrepreneurs.

- Since 1977, the party's congresses have been held once every five years.

None was held between 1956 and 1969, a period that saw chaotic political upheavals such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

AFP

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