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After the 20th Party Congress – four key events to watch

Despite its overarching importance, no concrete policies come out of the 20th Party Congress. Instead, the Party Congress that convenes every five years fulfils three key functions for the CCP: 1) it sets development priorities for the CCP and country for the next five years, 2) it adopts changes to the Party constitution, and 3) it elects a new leadership.

The 20th Party Congress, in line with prior Congresses, therefore focused predominantly on ideology and policy concepts. As such, it for instance added key concepts developed under Xi Jinping such as “Coordinate development and security”, “High-Quality Development”, the “Dual Circulation” or “Chinese-style modernization” to the revised Party Constitution.

Several of these concepts will serve as top-level ideological foundation to trade-off against Deng’s “basic party line” which principally has been focusing on economic development. On this foundation, more securitization, technological and cultural self-reliance as well as market governance policies, likely spurring further decoupling, can be expected.

The coming weeks and months will reveal how these new top-level priorities will find their way into actual policies and laws, as well as senior personnel changes in China’s large bureaucracy.

To understand the changes in economic, social or foreign policy, therefore, below four key events of CCP and government bodies are of particular importance and hence merit closer monitoring:

  • The Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC), a gathering of the CCP’s top economic policymakers usually held in early December, is an important early indicator of economic policy priorities for the coming year. In light of the severe headwinds, the focus will likely be on short-term economic recovery for 2023 after the country experienced the slowest growth in four decades with annual growth expected around 3%, with a further fine-tuning of “Zero Covid” and real estate policies expected.

  • In terms of more substantial and long-term policy changes, only the “Two Sessions”, the legislative meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in March 2023, will adopt eventual new laws and regulations. It is also where new structural reforms in China’s governance bodies will be adopted, such as for instance a consolidation of the two financial regulators CBIRC and CSRC into a new “super-regulator” for the financial market.

  • In preparation of these adjustments, the 20th Central Committee of the CCP will decide on all senior appointments and leadership changes during its 2nd Plenary Session, expected to take place sometime in Q1, before the “Two Sessions”.

  • The 3rd Plenary Session, in the past often the party meeting which focused on wide-ranging economic and political reforms, will take place in the second half of 2023.


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