China's Party Congress ends as leadership rumours swirl

China's Party Congress has ended today. Rumours are now swirling around Beijing as people try to guess who will be on the powerful Standing Committee of the Politburo when it is unveiled tomorrow.

Yes, there's a certain amount of suspense involved, but really we can be very certain Xi Jinping will go from Vice President to President and Li Keqiang will rise from Vice Premier to Premier. We are not waiting for votes to be counted.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping and China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang Credit: Reuters

We've all seen Xi Jinping being groomed, trips to the White House earlier this year, talks with Obama, sure signs that he was tipped for the very top.

However, who else makes it into the most senior ranks? That's where people are rightly focussing their guesswork. Studying the Chinese political tea leaves is the same as the Kremlinology that used to occupy the minds of diplomats and spies during the Soviet Era.

Two examples. One to watch is Wang Yang, the pro reform Guangdong party boss. That's the province where China's economic reforms were first tested out in the 80s. Not far from Hong Kong and so the region has always been an international facing area. He's known for his free market philosophy and at times has spoken out against Central government's policy of propping up failing, inefficient state owned firms. His promotion would be seen as a move towards more opening up.

China's tough security tsar is also stepping down; Zhou Yongkang the grim faced hardliner is retiring. There's talk he will be replaced by Wang Qishan, the ex Beijing Party Boss, son of a famous General, who successfully dealt with the SARS crisis. Wang is seen as a reformist plus he's an economics expert. That move would be seen as a softening of the security brief. China currently spends more on internal security than it does on Defence, according to official figures.

Delegates at the closing session of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China Credit: Reuters

In less than 24 hours, all will be revealed. Either 7 or 9 men, perhaps a woman, will walk out onto stage. The order they walk out in will be their rank according to seniority. We don't know exactly how they have been selected, there's no public vote, it's all very secretive right up until the last moment.

Then the new leaders will have ten years ahead of them, a decade when China arguably faces the most important phase of its extraordinary modern development. To push on and improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people, the stated aim to make China a 'middle income' nation, to build enough homes and hospitals for 1.3 billion people, 20% of the world's population. To change its economy into a high tech and consumer led market. To satisfy the increasingly informed and educated people. Politically can it do all that without massive reforms?

The small group who walk out on stage tomorrow, will be leading China into the future with the world watching.