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China enlists everyone from cops to cabbies to enforce orderly transition

China's ruling Communist Party opens a congress Thursday to usher in a new group of leaders. Much about the meeting will be a reminder that China remains an authoritarian state.

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A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of a screen displaying propaganda slogans on Beijing's Tiananmen Square Nov. 6. Security has been tightened around the square and the adjoining Great Hall of the People as China opens its 18th Communist Party Congress.

David Gray/Reuters

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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.

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