we want to host it in a happy, joyful mood, as the Chinese tradition goes.''
Even if their power is limited, the delegates are successful and influential in their fields or communities. They typically know little about China's politics. Communists all, they are nominated by local party offices. Party personnel officers vet their qualifications and sound out colleagues to evaluate their reputations.
Delegates are tasked with studying Hu's speech _ a long-prepared report summarizing progress and outlining an agenda _ so they can share it with local party members. They attend presentations showcasing China's achievements under the party's leadership, and hold sessions by region to air suggestions. There is no voice of opposition.
Li, like other delegates, received early drafts of Hu's report. She made suggestions for the section on ecological development and was overjoyed to see even stronger wording in the final version that Hu delivered Thursday.
The report is truly a collective work of the whole party's wisdom,'' Li said.
After the congress, the delegates help spread the message from the top leadership, known as Zhongyang, or ``party central.''
”We are engaged with the masses,'' Wu said. ``We are the bridge between the party central and the grassroots.''
Most significantly, the delegates will select the Central Committee, the party's policy-setting body of around 350 full and non-voting alternate members. Usually there are a few more candidates than seats. At the last congress in 2007, there were about 108 candidates for every 100 seats, so votes can affect the outcome slightly.
The Central Committee then chooses the leadership, though the real lineup is largely fixed through back-channel negotiations.
“The rank-and-file delegates are welcome to air their views, but they are also skillfully guided by the top echelons of the party to make the right decisions and elect the appropriate Central Committee members,'' said Steve Tsang of the University of Nottingham in Britain. ``Party discipline means that there is no real scope for them to make what will be deemed by the party central as inappropriate choices.''
Still, Li said she was taking her vote seriously. As one of the 2,268 national delegates for more than 82 million party members, Li technically is voting on behalf of 35,000 party members.
“It's very weighty,'' she said. Work experience, word of mouth, gender and region of origin will factor into how she votes, she said.
She brushed aside reports that two top slots are already settled: Vice President Xi Jinping is all but