If the main announcement, expected on Sunday, will be the very likely third term granted to Xi Jinping, it is the Chinese governing bodies, as a whole, which will be reshuffled on this occasion.
- Reshuffling at the top -
The five-year political meeting is an opportunity to renew the Central Committee, a kind of CCP parliament with around 200 delegates, of which the 25-member Political Bureau is the hard core.
Real power is in the hands of the Politburo Standing Committee, a group currently made up of seven men, including General Secretary Xi Jinping.
“Its size could be reduced or enlarged,” warns Nis Grünberg, senior analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (Merics) in Berlin, recalling that in the past it has had up to nine members.
"Up to four members of the Standing Committee could be replaced and nearly half of the Central Committee," predicted this week the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong daily, without citing its sources.
"A broad reshuffle would be beneficial to Xi Jinping," said Grünberg.
Thus, "he could promote a greater number of his supporters from the Political Bureau to the Standing Committee", the key to power.
- New Prime Minister -
Saturday will be unveiled the new Central Committee. But it is only on Sunday, at the end of its first plenum, that the composition of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee will be made public.
The members of the latter will be announced in order of importance, the number one being the secretary general, almost assured of a presidential mandate at the annual meeting of the National Assembly next March.
Number two or number three will be the next prime minister, with current Li Keqiang retiring. Among the names mentioned to replace him: Wang Yang and Hu Chunhua, currently Deputy Prime Minister.
Among those tipped to join the Standing Committee are four close allies of Xi Jinping: Li Xi, party leader of Guangdong Province (south); Ding Xuexiang, Xi Jinping's chief of staff; Li Qiang, party leader in Shanghai and Chen Min'er, party leader in Chongqing (southwest).
But "a Chinese Communist Party without factions does not exist", warns the sinologist Jean-Philippe Béja, which could force Xi Jinping to deal with other currents of the party.
- New mandate... and new title? -
Xi Jinping seems assured of obtaining a third term as general secretary at the head of the party, and therefore of the country. But a few subtleties remain in play.
Thus, analysts and media are speculating on his wish to change the title of his post to "party chairman", the title held by the founder of the Mao Tse-tung regime (1949-76).
Another modification could be made, but this time to the CCP charter: in 2017, it had incorporated a reference to "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era", a mention then added to the Constitution in 2018.
The president may seek to shorten this formulation to "Xi Jinping Thought".
"As silly as it may sound, such a change would signal widespread support for Xi among the Party elite, elevating his status and ideology to the same level as Mao Tse-tung," says Trivium China.