China party congress wraps up ahead of leadership unveiling

image captionSecurity has been tight in Beijing for the week of the congress

China's Communist Party has concluded a week-long congress, a day before unveiling its new leadership line-up.

More than 2,200 delegates met to select a new 205-member Central Committee in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

That committee will meet on Thursday to endorse China's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

The new line-up will be keenly watched for signs of China's future direction amid slowing economic growth and growing pressure for reforms.

In a closing statement, President Hu Jintao said the congress had "replaced older leaders with younger ones" and made decisions of "far-reaching historical significance", Xinhua news agency said.

China's leadership change happens every 10 years. The party congress opened on 8 November with a televised work report from Mr Hu, but since then the decision-making has been taking place behind closed doors.

While votes are held, key selections are in reality decided in advance by top leaders, with the Politburo Standing Committee line-up to be revealed at 11:00 (03:00 GMT) on Thursday.

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are expected to become party leader and deputy respectively. Mr Xi is also expected to take over from Hu Jintao as China's president in March 2013.

Both were appointed to the Central Committee, as were the leading contenders for inclusion in the Standing Committee.

Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, party organisation chief Li Yuanchao, Tianjin party boss Zhang Gaoli and Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang are all thought to be front-runners.

But the exact composition of the committee - which could be reduced from nine to seven members - will not be clear until it is formally announced.

New faces

The new Central Committee contains 205 full members, who are usually leading figures of the party, government and army. A 171-strong list of alternate members was also selected.

Confirming predictions, nearly half of the Central Committee are new faces - many of the old members are past retirement age. Those no longer in the Central Committee include Mr Hu and six other members of the Standing Committee.

Out, too, is the governor of the central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan. editor Zhuang Chen says the only question now regarding Mr Hu is whether he will follow his predecessor Jiang Zemin's example by retaining the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission. The answer to that will become clear on Thursday.

Of the 10 highest-ranking politicians, financial problem solver Wang Qishan is the only one to straddle both the Central Committee and the Discipline Inspection Committee. That is a signal that he might take charge of the latter, an organisation tasked with anti-corruption, our correspondent says.

The Central Committee contains just 10 women, three fewer than before.

It is reported that 67-year-old Liu Yandong might break the ceiling to become the first lady in the Standing Committee - but many believe, at best, she will join the politburo, the second highest tier of China's power pyramid.

The Central Committee meets every year to make decisions on major policies and is also responsible for appointing the most powerful people in China.

But, correspondents say, sometimes decisions are made by the politburo and then sent to the committee for final approval, leading some to call it a rubber-stamp.

The party congress also approved Mr Hu's work report and added his Scientific Outlook on Development theory into the party constitution, Xinhua said.

Analysts say there has been division at the very top of the leadership in the lead-up to the congress, with two rival factions jostling for position and influence.

Recent months have also been dominated by the scandal involving former Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai.

His wife has been jailed for murdering a British businessman and he looks set to face trial on a raft of corruption-related charges.

Across China, meanwhile, recent cases of official corruption have stoked public anger and there have been a series of high-profile mass protests focusing on land grabs and environmental issues.

Mr Hu, in his speech, said the party had to better tackle corruption issues or risk fatal damage, echoing a warning issued 10 years ago.

"If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state," he said.