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China turns to police, cabdrivers to enforce orderly transition in power

By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers –

BEIJING — As the United States ends its political season, China’s is beginning, and Beijing would like to keep things in order. That means red banner slogans strung along roadsides, flurries of propaganda-as-news and, of course, a police crackdown.

In the coming week, officials here will trumpet the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party as an event confirming that, as one state news item recently put it, “democracy with Chinese characteristics is improving.”

Much about the meeting will be a reminder, however, that China remains an authoritarian state that often requires a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to public politics.

The congress of 2,270 delegates is set to exercise “intraparty democracy” in electing a new central committee for the party. After the congress, which starts Thursday and expected to last a week, the new central committee will convene a meeting at which the politburo and its standing committee are chosen. The seven or nine standing committee members — the new total isn’t yet known — form the nucleus of ruling power in China.

A small level of competition in voting is expected for full members of the central committee, now just above 200 seats, and, though the prospect seems slim, Reuters cited unnamed sources Tuesday as saying that the same could be true for the 25-person politburo as well. But the all-powerful standing committee almost definitely has been determined through factional jockeying behind closed doors.

And, as was the case for outgoing President and party General Secretary Hu Jintao, there’s no doubt that his replacement, Xi Jinping, will be elected the president of China next March by a second, rubber-stamping body, the National People’s Congress.

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