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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Q&A: China's Party Congress
Delegates have gathered for one of China's most important political events, the Communist Party Congress.

Great Hall of the People
The congress is the party's most important public event
What is the congress?

The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, usually held every five years, is the country's most important public political event.

Congress delegates will endorse policies to be adopted over the coming years. The congress is also a time for promoting and demoting senior party leaders.

This year Chinese President Hu, who is also the party's general secretary, is expected to tighten his grip on power by promoting key allies to top positions.

Who will attend?

More than 2,200 delegates have been selected to attend this year's 17th party congress.

Most of these are senior party figures from Beijing and the provinces.

About 30% of congress delegates are carefully-chosen "grassroots" party members.

Delegates are expected to meet for about a week in Tiananmen Square's Great Hall of the People and at other locations.

How important is the congress?

China is effectively a one-party state in which the communists wield absolute control over the government, judiciary and military.

MAJOR THEMES OF THE CONGRESS
promoting 'social harmony'
'scientific development'
building a 'well-off society'
consolidation of President Hu's position

That is why the party's congress is the country's main political event.

But decisions made at the congress will probably have been agreed beforehand after wide consultation among senior party leaders.

Expect no public disagreements over policy or personnel.

What themes will emerge at this year's gathering?

With President Hu expected to consolidate his position, his major policy initiatives are also expected to gain ground.

Promoting "social harmony" is one of the president's declared tasks, as is "scientific development" and building a "well-off society".

President Hu believes China's economic boom ought to bring benefits to more people, particularly the less well off.

Who are the new players to watch out for?

No-one knows for certain who will be promoted and who will leave high office, but a number of key names do keep cropping up.

Police outside the Great Hall of the People
More than 2,200 delegates will attend this year's congress
These include current Liaoning Province party secretary Li Keqiang and Shanghai's new top man Xi Jinping.

The country's supreme decision-making body is the party's standing committee of the politburo, of which there are currently eight members.

There appears to be two distinct factions within the party vying for influence - the populists, led by President Hu and PM Wen Jiabao, and the elitists, heavily influenced by former President Jiang Zemin.

While the populists want to reduce the poverty gap by developing China's neglected inland regions, the elitists have concentrated on wealth creation on the east coast - particularly in Shanghai.

It is thought President Hu will try to balance the politburo's new line-up, due to be revealed shortly after the congress ends, between the two factions.

Will China change much after the congress?

Not by much. Decisions are the result of bargaining between the various party factions behind closed doors, who then present a unified front, so a few changes in personnel should not make that much difference.

Plus, the very top leaders are all expected to carry on in their roles.

Also, Chinese leaders do not have to subject themselves to elections.

Free from having to appeal for popular votes, they can plan longer-term policies that do not usually change over the short term.

SEE ALSO
Chinese corruption 'astonishing'
11 Oct 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China announces date for congress
28 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China's future discussed in secret
18 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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