China's Communist Party to open pivotal congress
BEIJING (AFP) - China's all-powerful Communist Party opens its 18th congress on Thursday amid smothering security to unveil a new slate of leaders who will oversee the world's number two economy for the next decade.
The five-yearly meeting starts with a nationally televised address by President Hu Jintao, who is set to hand over the party's leadership - the apex of power in the country of 1.3 billion people - to Vice-President Xi Jinping.
More than 2,200 delegates drawn from the Communist Party's ranks of 82 million members will gather in Beijing's Great Hall of the People next to Tiananmen Square until Nov 14, when the new leaders will be presented.
Underlining the party's secretive nature, the closing date was only announced on the eve of the meeting, and many Chinese netizens remarked on the contrast with the very public re-election of Barack Obama as United States president.