The choreography of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly congress has hardly changed in recent decades. It begins with the party chief delivering a stodgy, often impenetrable report to the 2,300 or so party delegates present. During the week these delegates echo their leader’s views and vote for a new Central Committee, a body comprising about 370 high-ranking officials, military commanders and other grandees. It all ends with a big reveal of the party’s apex decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. All in all, it is a rather dull affair. This year, though, there was more drama than usual, including the mysterious exit of a former leader.
It was no surprise that Xi Jinping walked onto the stage first on October 23rd, leading the new seven-member Standing Committee. He had made it clear that he intended to break recent retirement norms and stay on as general secretary of the party and head of the armed forces. He was duly granted a third five-year term in both positions (he will additionally be re-confirmed as state president at next year’s annual session of the legislature, probably in March). The congress, in many ways, was a showcase of Mr Xi’s power.