Meetings are bloody boring. Invariably, people just sit there pointlessly droning on and on, all while desperately trying to sound intelligent, productive, and like they vaguely know what they are doing. There are lots of ideas, things get jotted down, and the whole thing goes on for far too long. Nothing ever, ever gets done. Smart people make doodles while looking like they are taking notes. Others surreptitiously play Angry Birds on their phones. I tend to doze off and think about more important things, like lunch. Well, imagine what a Communist Party meeting is like. Yeah, pretty damn similar, and there are lots of them. Not a month goes by without talk of some really, really, high-level meeting, where incredibly important things get discussed, debated, and discussed some more.
There are so many of them that it is all a bit mind-boggling. Here are a few of the big Party meetings explained:
1) National Congress of the Communist Party (中国共产党全国代表大会)
This one is big, so big in fact, that it only happens every five years. The last one (the 18th, 十八大) happened back in November 2012. Its venue is always the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and comprises about 2,000 or so delegates who represent the Party.
Here they decide things like who gets to be the secretary general of Communist Party of China (CPC), on the Standing Committee of China’ s Politburo (中央政治局常委, the seven most powerful men in the Party), China’s Politburo (中央政治局委员, the top 25 men in the Party), and CPC’s Central Committee (中央委员, the top 350 or so cadres). If necessary, changes and review of the parties rules might also happen here, though it’s widely acknowledged that most important key decisions are actually made way in advance of the actual congress it itself.
2) CPC Central Committee Plenary Sessions (中国共产党中央委员会全体会议)
Now, over each five year term of the National Congress, the Party’s Central Committee has various meet ups. These are called plenums and are, of course, very important — a lot of power is held here. There are usually seven of them, but there may be more. Each plenum has a specific function.
First Plenum (一中全会): usually happens as part of the National Congress of the Communist Party, and decides on who is in the Politburo, Standing Committee (top 25 guys in the party), and sets the future agenda.
Second Plenum (二中全会): This proposes candidates for the leadership personnel of the state government and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (中国人民政治协商会议全国委员会), which are then ratified by the National People’s Congress (more of which later).
Third Plenum (三中全会): this is the Plenum superstar and more important than all the rest. It was the third plenum in 1978 (十一届三中全会) that decided on the Reform and Opening Up, and ever since this plenum has been about “deepening reform” and broad economic changes.
Fourth Plenum (四中全会): this one decides how to improve CPC governance. One can only imagine that there is a lot to talk about.
Fifth Plenum (五中全会): This introduces the CPC’s next five-year-plan. You really can’t beat a good five-year plan.
Sixth Plenum (六中全会): Discuss how to improve the general morality of society and CPC in addition to cultural reforms. Presumably another biggie.
Seventh Plenum (七中全会): Discuss the Politburo work report and decide the time for the next National Congress of the Communist Party.
3) Lianghui (两会, Two sessions）
This is an annual meeting held in the spring, and is so-called because it is the meetings of two different assemblies: The National People’s Congress (NPC, 全国人民代表大会) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative conference (CPPCC, 中国人民政治协商会议). The NPC is the nation’s 3,000 member legislature, and in theory holds the bulk of state-power.
The CPPCC is a political advisory body. Alongside the Party (the biggest member) it is made up of various parties and interest groups, including the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomingtang (中国国民党革命委员会), the China Democratic league (中国民主同盟), the All-China Youth Federation (中华全国青年联合会), and the All-China Women’s Federation（中华全国妇女联合会. The Lianghui provides an opportunity to review policies and present future plans to the nation. This year the environment and the success of a Korean TV show were put firmly on the front of the agenda.
An exciting graphic showing people how to Party
4) The Central Economic Work Conference (中央经济工作会议)
This annual meeting is a relative newbie and has only been around since 1994. It’s a four-dayer and it is generally economy based, with particular focus on those two moneyed bedfellows, banking and finance. The agenda for the meeting is usually set around a serious of “key words”. Compare 2010, “economic stabilization, structural adjustment, control inflation,” with 2011 “maintaining stability”. In 2012 it was about “steady growth”, and in 2013 it was all about “deeper reforms”. China watchers will, no doubt, be waiting to find out what the key words will be for 2014.
5) Politburo Standing Committee meetings（中共中央政治局常务委员会）
These are the most powerful seven most people (thus far all men) in China (though they were nine between 2002-12). They are (in order of importance): Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli. They reportedly have a meeting once a week, but it is all very secretive, so nobody is quite sure.
6) Politburo meetings (中共中央政治局会议)
The Politburo, the top 25 men in the party (ok, it’s 24 men and one woman, but you know what I mean) reportedly meet every month. And it is all filmed and aired live on TV (ok, that was a joke).