China's leaders to hold key conclave next week

The meeting will run from Oct 28 to 31 in Beijing, and will be the first since February 2018.
The meeting will run from Oct 28 to 31 in Beijing, and will be the first since February 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - China's ruling Communist Party will hold a long-delayed leadership meeting next week, state media said on Thursday (Oct 24), as Beijing battles unrest in Hong Kong, a lingering trade war and a slowing economy.

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

Next week's meeting will run from Oct 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 on Thursday of the Central Committee presided over by President Xi Jinping.

State-run Global Times said on Twitter that the Central Committee Political Bureau will consider issues including "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 Mr Xi to stay in office for life.

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 Centre 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 CCP 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 reflect Xi’s power and authority, he added.

Beijing marked the 70th year of communist rule in China with an enormous military parade earlier this month 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 bruising trade impasse with the US.

China’s GDP growth slowed to 6 per cent in the third quarter, the slowest rate in 27 years.