Yesterday saw the announcment that the 17th National Congress of the beloved Chinese Communist Party will begin on 15th October.
I'm sure that the next 6 and a half weeks are going to be an absolute barrel of laughs for Chinese dissidents, journalists and foreign reporters whilst the paranoid apparatus of the State tries to keep the lid on simmering unrest related to rising food prices and corruption (both petty and serious) by local government officials.
Like the 16th National Congress, this one is going to be a very interesting one to watch. I expect Hu Jintao to strenghthen his grip on the Communist leadership at the expense of the remnants of the Shanghai Faction. I predict that Vice-President Zeng Qinghong amongst others is set for a fall.
Hu Jintao has disappointed all of us who thought that Jiang Zemin was illiberal and that somehow he would prove to be a breath of fresh air. He is even more stifling on the human rights front than Jiang and even less charismatic.
The most important outcome of the Congress will, of course, be who is going to replace Hu Jintao in five years time. We should see the next generation of Chinese leaders emerge. Let us hope that they are more colourful and more liberal than their predecessors.