(Reuters) - China’s Communist Party opens its 17th Congress on October 15. Here are some key facts:
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— The five-yearly congress elects more than 350 full and alternate members of the elite Central Committee.
— The new Central Committee’s first plenary session elects at least two dozen members of the decision-making Politburo.
— The new Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s top echelon of power which currently has eight members, meets the press after the plenary session ends.
— Hu Jintao is set to win a second five-year term as Party general secretary. The key test for Hu, who is also state president and military chief, will be how many allies he can promote to the Standing Committee and the Politburo and whether he can name an heir apparent amid intense factional jockeying.
— Hu gives a keynote report to the opening session of the congress, appraising the Party’s work over the past five years and mapping out policy initiatives for the next five years.
— The report is expected to highlight Hu’s theory of “scientific development” and “harmonious society”.
The idea is to push for more even and sustainable economic growth after three decades of market reforms which have brought the nation not only prosperity but also a yawning wealth gap, environmental degradation and mounting public discontent.
— Hu is also likely to make cautious efforts to answer calls for more political reforms. He may introduce tentative measures to broaden inner-party democracy, but stability remains a top concern and one-party rule will be safeguarded.
— State media have not said how long the congress will last, but the 16th Party Congress in 2002, when Hu took the helm from predecessor Jiang Zemin, went on for about a week.
— The delegates will convene at Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People for full sessions, but most group meetings will take place behind closed doors at a hotel.
— The Party was founded at the 1st congress in Shanghai in 1921 when 13 delegates, including a young Mao Zedong, represented the less than 60 Marxist activists across the country. The Party swept to power in the 1949 revolution after a bloody civil war.
— The 17th congress is a gathering of China’s most powerful people: incumbent state leaders, cabinet ministers, top generals, provincial party chiefs and governors, mayors of major cities and prefectures as well as managers of large state-owned enterprises.
— A total of 2,217 delegates were selected to attend the congress. At least two of these died of illness earlier this year: Vice Premier Huang Ju and Major-General Wang Shaojun.
— About 30 percent of the delegates were carefully selected “grassroots” role models from all walks of life, including farmers, workers, teachers, doctors and scientists. The Party has 73 million members.
— There are also some 20 private entrepreneurs among the delegates, Chinese media say, compared with the seven attending the 16th Congress when the Party opened its doors to capitalists.
— Celebrity delegates include China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, and table tennis world champion Zhang Yining.