China's leaders to hold key conclave next week

AFP
Beijing, China Updated: Oct 24, 2019, 05:10 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( PTI )

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China's ruling Communist Party will hold a long-delayed leadership meeting next week.

China's ruling Communist Party will hold a long-delayed leadership meeting next week, state media said Thursday, as Beijing battles unrest in Hong Kong, a lingering trade war, and a slowing economy.

The Fourth Plenum of the party's Central Committee is a closed-door meeting of high-ranking officials where the country's roadmap and future direction is discussed.

Next week's meet will run from October 28 to 31 in Beijing and will be the first since February 2018.

State news agency Xinhua said the dates were confirmed at a meeting Thursday of the Central Committee Political Bureau, chaired by President Xi Jinping.

The state-run Global Times said on Twitter that the Politburo would update on "upholding and improvement of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, including modernising the country's governance system and capacity."

Many of the country's most significant policies have been announced after plenum meetings, with the last one in February 2018 focused on a reform plan for state institutions, giving even more power to the party.

The one before that approved the scrapping of presidential term limits, allowing Xi to stay in office for life.

'National interests'

While the CCP's constitution says there must be a plenum at least once per year, next week's long-awaited conclave will end a significant delay between sessions.

Experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said holding the plenum in October would represent the longest hiatus since 1977.

Their analysis in August concluded that most plenums occur every 300 to 400 days, but this one would mark a delay of at least 580 days.

While the long wait has sparked speculation that Xi is facing power struggles or opposition within the party leadership, the CSIS said a simpler explanation is possible, that the delay marks a balancing out after the last two plenums were held very close together, in January and February 2018.

"Since the Third Plenum, Xi has convened two extraordinary meetings of all the top Party, State and Military leaders," wrote China-watcher Bill Bishop on Monday on his Sinocism blog.

The ability to call such high-profile meetings reflects Xi's power and authority, he added.

Eleanor Olcott, the China policy analyst at research firm TS Lombard, said the plenum was likely to focus on governance and strengthening party control, as well as six new free trade zones and greater autonomy for the southern city of Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong.

"Xi has been keenly stressing all of the hazards to the party, outlining what are the greatest threats to the party," she said.

"Any moves to alter the CCP governance format will be framed as based on China's own national interests rather than a result of external pressure. The context of the trade war makes this all the more important.

"This plenum will be part of Beijing's propaganda campaign against foreign 'black hands' seeking to subvert the PRC."

Beijing marked the 70th year of Communist rule in China earlier this month with an enormous military parade that showed off the country's military strength.

But the central government has also been shaken by months of anti-Beijing unrest in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a slowing domestic economy, and the impact of a protracted trade impasse with the United States.

China's GDP growth slowed to six per cent in the third quarter, the slowest rate in 27 years.

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