China is set to unveil the new leaders who will rule for the next decade.
Early on Thursday, selected Communist Party delegates will endorse the new Politburo Standing Committee – the highest decision-making body.
The committee line-up will then be made public at 11:00, when leaders walk out in order of seniority.
Vice-President Xi Jinping is set to succeed outgoing leader Hu Jintao as party chief. Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is also on course for a top-level post.
It is not yet clear who will fill the other spaces on the committee or indeed how many spaces there will be.
Recent months have seen speculation that the committee could be reduced from nine to seven members.
Front-runners include Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, party organization chief Li Yuanchao, Tianjin party boss Zhang Gaoli and Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang.
Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng and the only female politburo member, Liu Yandong, are also thought to be in contention.
Although the Central Committee delegates – elected before the week-long party congress closed on Wednesday – will vote for the new Standing Committee, in reality the selection will have been made ahead of time.
The move marks a generational shift in the party’s top ranks – the new leaders will be mostly in their late 50s.
They will gradually take over in the next few months, with Hu Jintao’s presidency formally coming to an end at the annual parliament session in March 2013.
The Communist Party will also announce on Thursday whether Hu Jintao will retain control of the Central Military Commission or pass it on to Xi Jinping. Hu Jintao’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, held on to the post for two years after he stood down from the party leadership.
Hu Jintao has been the Communist Party chief since he led the Standing Committee line-up out on stage in November 2002.
Under his administration China has seen a decade of extraordinary growth, overtaking Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.
But the development has been uneven, leading to a widening wealth gap, environmental challenges and rumbling social discontent over inequality and corruption.
On Wednesday, a party congress resolution hailed achievements under Hu Jintao, saying China had seized “the important period of strategic opportunities” for development.
Centralized party leadership was “the source of its strength and a fundamental guarantee for China’s economic and social development”, it emphasized.
Xi Jinping, a former Shanghai party chief, was appointed to the politburo in 2007.
A “princeling” – a relative of one of China’s revolutionary elders – he has spent almost four decades in the Communist Party, serving in top posts in both Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, as well as Shanghai.
He is said to be a protégé of Jiang Zemin, while Li Keqiang is said to have been Hu Jintao’s preferred successor.
Analysts say there has been division at the very top of the leadership in the lead-up to the party congress, with two rival factions jostling for position and influence.
The transition process has also been complicated by the scandal that engulfed Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai – a powerful high-flier once seen as a strong contender for the top leadership. His wife has been jailed for murdering a British businessman and he looks set to face trial on a raft of corruption-related charges.
That notwithstanding, the power transition process has been orderly, for only the second time in 60 years of Communist Party rule.