○ The number of delegates to the CPC National Congress continues to grow
○ Political soundness and moral integrity are the two top criteria in the elections
○ Fewer Party officials and more frontline workers will be elected this year
Party delegates in Yiling district, Yichang, Central China's Hubei Province vote for district Party committee members, alternate committee members and discipline inspection commission members on December 16, 2016. Photo: CFP
At each National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is held every five years, the number, composition and election criteria for delegates differs slightly.
The elections for delegates to the 19th CPC National Congress, which will be held in the latter half of this year, began last November and will end in June. The congress will see a higher percentage of grass-roots delegates than in previous years, and yet the criteria for the elections will be tougher, reflecting the CPC's growing emphasis on Party discipline and moral integrity.
The delegates' responsibilities will include listening to and reviewing reports produced by the CPC Central Committee and the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection; discussing and deciding on major Party issues; and electing a new CPC Central Committee, according to Party guidelines.
The Global Times will walk you through the process of the election, and examine how the election fits into the Party's past, present and future.
According to guidelines released by the CPC Central Committee for the election of delegates to the 19th CPC National Congress, by June a total of 2,300 delegates will have been elected from 40 electoral units in China, an increase of 30 delegates compared with the 18th CPC Congress five years ago. "The growth in the number of delegates is in line with growth in the number of Party members, and reflects growing intra-party democracy," Yao Huan, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times.
Since the 10th CPC National Congress in 1973, the number of CPC delegates has been steadily rising. Over the 96 years of the Party's history, from only 13 delegates representing a total of 50-odd CPC members in 1921 to a total of 2,300 delegates representing over 88 million CPC members today, the number of CPC delegates has been expanded 176 times.
Among the 40 electoral units, 34 are divided by regions, including China's provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, the CPC work committees in Hong Kong and Macao, and the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots.
The remaining six electoral units are all part of the central government. The People's Liberation Army (PLA), for example, is one of the most important electoral units of all. During the 18th CPC National Congress, 251 delegates from the PLA were elected, accounting for 11 percent of all delegates and topping all electoral units in terms of delegate quota. All departments directly under the CPC Central Committee also belong to one electoral unit, as well as all the central government-controlled enterprises.
The quota for the number of delegates to be elected by each regional unit reflects the region's political importance, rather than its population, experts say. Shanghai, for example, traditionally churns out the largest number of delegates among all regions. A total of 73 delegates from Shanghai were elected for the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, topping the regional electoral units. In contrast, Hainan Province, with a delegation of 26, was the smallest regional delegation that year.
In comparison, the quota for delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) is mostly decided according to each area's population. During the 12th NPC, Shandong Province, one of the most populous provinces in China, had the biggest quota of 162 delegates, while Shanghai had only 50.
So far, only two regional electoral units, namely Jiangsu Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, have publicly announced their quota for the 19th CPC National Congress.
According to the Nanjing-based Xinhua Daily newspaper, Jiangsu Province has a quota of 69 delegates this year, one less than at the 18th congress, and the Jiangsu provincial Party committee has decided to nominate 90 candidates. After these candidates are reviewed by the CPC Central Committee, an election will be held during the provincial Party congress, and 21 candidates will be eliminated, while the rest will go to Beijing to attend the national congress.
This means in Jiangsu, there will be around 30 percent more candidates than available posts. This is in line with the election rule that the number of candidates should be at least 15 percent more than the number of deputies to be elected.
This year's election will also see tightened criteria on political integrity and moral standards in the reviewing and election process, according to official documents.
"[Delegates to the 19th CPC National Congress] should be the crème de la crème of all Party members ... Their political standards should be the top criteria in the election, and their ideals and beliefs, political integrity and moral standards should be especially examined," read a commentary on published in the People's Daily last December on the election of the delegates.
China's higher level elections have been hit by scandals. In 2013, more than 500 city-level legislators were dismissed from the legislature after the discovery of their involvement in trading cash for votes in Hengyang, Central China's Hunan Province. Last year a similar case was reported in a Liaoning provincial legislature election, in which a total of 523 deputies to the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress were implicated.
Liaoning Province, hit hard by this electoral fraud, has vowed not to make the same mistakes again. In a provincial Party committee meeting on January 10, the province's top officials said they will "learn profoundly the bitter lesson from Liaoning's electoral fraud ... strengthen election discipline, and ensure that the candidates' political integrity, moral standards and personal identity will be closely examined to ensure that the deputies elected meet central government requirements and are welcomed by Party members across the province," according to a Liaoning Daily report.
Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times the Liaoning case also serves as a warning to all candidates looking to attend the 19th CPC National Congress. "Theoretically though, electoral fraud is less likely to happen among Party delegates than among NPC deputies because the Party delegate election is carried out within the Party system, which has stricter criteria, but still we should never drop our guard."
CPC Congress delegates can generally be divided into two groups: Party officials and model Party-member workers who work on the frontlines.
The Party officials include Party leaders of various provincial and municipal CPC and government organs, State-owned enterprises, universities and institutions.
"One feature of the CPC National Congress is that the majority of delegates are Party officials. After all, the purpose of the CPC National Congress is to strengthen the leadership of the Party," Zhang said.
But in the past 25 years, the percentage of Party officials has gradually dropped from 78 percent during the 14th Party congress in 1992 to 69.5 percent in the 18th Party congress. This year, that proportion will further be lowered. According to the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, which is responsible for personnel management, in 33 of the 40 electoral units, over one third of the delegates elected should be Party members working on the frontlines.
Among the 90 candidates that Jiangsu Province plans to nominate this year, 56.7 percent, will be Party officials, while frontline workers will account for 43.3 percent.
"Delegates from the frontline can better reflect the interests and needs of grass-roots workers. They're more down-to-earth, and know a lot about society that officials don't," Yao said.
Zhang said this can also help prevent the Party from drifting away from the masses, and that setting a cap on the percentage of Party leaders is especially important. "There may be hundreds of thousands of Party members in a city, and yet more often than not, it's often the Party secretary who's elected as the delegate, because frontline workers have little chance to achieve the same influence. A cap on the percentage of Party leaders will ensure that frontline workers are not ignored," he said.
The rising number of frontline workers means the competition among Party officials to become congress delegates will be fiercer. In order to prevent the manipulation of quotas, the Organization Department said in a press conference that Party members who have multiple titles or social roles should join the election using only their major title. "[Party officials] hiding or altering their real identity in order to evade reviews, and occupy the quotas of frontline deputies such workers, farmers, and skilled professionals should be prevented," it said.