China Leadership Monitor

The 16th Party Congress: Implications for Understanding Chinese Politics

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Jiang Zemin emerged from the recent 16th Party Congress and First Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee with a sweeping victory. Not only were his "three represents" written into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) charter, but his allies also emerged in critical positions on the Politburo and its Standing Committee. Jiang himself will continue to hold the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). In terms of understanding Chinese politics, however, does this mean that personnel can be manipulated at will, without reference to institutions? Not entirely, for institutions are taking on greater force in Chinese politics, but Jiang has proven a master of working--and dominating--the institutions. Looking closely at the results of the recent CCP congress makes Jiang's victory at the 15th Party Congress in 1997 all the more important. Although it is too early to predict what will ultimately ensue at the highest reaches of Chinese politics, Jiang's domination of personnel decisions makes it very difficult for Hu Jintao, relying primarily on the institutional power of the office of general secretary, to consolidate power in his person.