Brief #136: Politburo Meeting: Second Plenum Announced
The Politburo met on February 21 and announced the Central Committee Second Plenum dates: February 26 to 28.
The Politburo also discussed:
- the Politburo’s work report to the Central Committee;
- the draft Party and State Institutions Reform Plan;
- candidates for top positions in state institutions and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; and
- the draft Government Work Report.
Below is a brief followed by a translation of the Politburo meeting readout.
The Political Cycle
The timing of the Second Plenum suggests that the current Central Committee is likely to follow the Party’s established political cycle, which has been in place for the past two decades.
The established political cycle of the Party provides predictability to its decision-making processes. However, norms and rules are subject to change and may be deviated from, as demonstrated by the events of 2018.
In 2018, the Politburo decided to hold the Second Plenum of the 19th Central Committee (2017-2022) in January rather than the typical February schedule. This adjustment aimed to meet the deadline to amend the PRC Constitution, which the National People's Congress subsequently enacted in March of that year. Consequently, the Third Plenum of the 19th Central Committee was held in February and effectively functioned as the second plenum in terms of its agenda.
The following table illustrates the political cycle of the Party from the 18th to the 21st Party congresses, along with the exception that occurred in 2018.
The timing of the Second and Third Plenums of the 19th Central Committee did not follow the established pattern, as all other second plenums since the 15th Central Committee (1997-2002) were held in February of the year following the election of a new Central Committee, and all other third plenums since the 14th Central Committee (1992-1997) were held in October or November of the same year.
The timing of the Third Plenum of the 20th Central Committee, expected to occur in October or November 2023, will likely confirm the Party’s commitment to following its established political cycle.
Party and State Institutions Reform Plan
The Central Committee will discuss the new Party and State Institutions Reform Plan during the Second Plenum. For the past thirty years, institutional reform and restructuring have been recurring topics on the agenda for second plenums, at least since the 14th Central Committee. Unsurprisingly, a new administration would following this pattern and prioritise reforming the Party-state apparatus at the beginning of its term rather than later, which is what is currently happening.
At present, there is limited public information available about the Plan. The language of the Politburo meeting readout gives conflicting signals on the scope of the proposed changes. In the previous round of restructuring in 2018, significant changes were made, such as reforming the supervisory system and integrating Party and state institutions.
By the end of the Second Plenum on February 28, we would have an understanding of the broad contours of the changes, with the full Plan expected to be made public by mid to late March.
Leadership Candidates and Government Work Report
The list of candidates discussed and selected by the Politburo will be considered at the Second Plenum. These candidates are for top positions in state institutions, including the central government, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Once the Central Committee approves the list of candidates, it will make “recommendations” to the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The two institutions will then elect or confirm top leadership positions at the Two Sessions in March.
This “recommendation” process is one of several ways the Party controls personnel appointments in nominally non-Party institutions in the Chinese political system.
On the draft Government Work Report, the State Council has presumably been given the green light by the Politburo to submit it to the National People’s Congress. The outgoing premier Li Keqiang will deliver it in the form of a speech to the National People's Congress on March 5.
Although we know Beijing’s main economic and social development priorities for 2023 from the Politburo and the Central Economic Work Conference in December (conference readout | Xi’s speech), the Report will provide details on policy initiatives and measures.
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee held a meeting and decided to convene the second plenary session of the 20th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The meeting was presided over by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Xi Jinping.
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee [Politburo] held a meeting on February 21. It decided the second plenary session of the 20th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China would be convened from February 26 to 28 in Beijing. The Politburo meeting was presided over by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Xi Jinping.
The Politburo discussed its work report to the Central Committee, which will be submitted at the upcoming second plenary session.
The Politburo also discussed the draft Party and State Institutions Reform Plan and decided to submit it for consideration at the second plenary session of the 20th Central Committee after the document had been revised in line with the views expressed during the Politburo meeting.
The Politburo pointed out that since the 18th Party Congress, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has considered the deepening of the reform of Party and state institutions as an important task for modernising China’s system of governance and governance capability.
Aligned with the principles of upholding the Party’s overall leadership, putting the people at the centre, optimising coordination and efficiency, and exercising law-based governance in all respects, we have comprehensively deepened the reform of Party and state institutions. The systematic and holistic reconstruction of their functions has provided not only robust guarantees for the historic achievements and changes in the Party and state but also accumulated valuable experience for further deepening the reform of Party and state institutions.
The Politburo emphasised that the 20th Party Congress had made significant arrangements for deepening institutional reform. This has a far-reaching and enduring impact on building a modern socialist country in all aspects and advancing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts.
As we deepen the reform of institutions in key areas, and push the Party’s leadership over socialist modernisation to be more scientific in institutional setup, optimised in functions, improved in systems and mechanisms, and more efficient in operations and management, we must: