Xi urges plan to tackle risks for next 'five years and beyond'

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the Communist Party to set "goals, tasks and policies" for the nation past 2027. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - President Xi Jinping called for China's ruling Communist Party to plan for risks in the next "five years and beyond" at a key meeting, adding to speculation he is vying for influence past a planned third term.

The Chinese leader said this year's 20th Party Congress would be held at a "crucial moment" for the nation, at a meeting of top leaders on Tuesday (July 26) and Wednesday in Beijing, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Mr Xi called on the party to set "goals, tasks and policies" for the nation past 2027 at the landmark summit, where he is expected to defy precedent by extending his decade in power after term limits were abolished in 2018.

"Against the backdrop of accelerating global changes unseen in a century, and more complex risks, challenges, contradictions and problems, the fundamental task is to run our own affairs well," he added.

Last year, Mr Xi delivered the first resolution on Communist Party history in 40 years, sending a strong signal he has the power base to remain in office. Only Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping have authored a so-called historical resolution, and both dominated Chinese politics until they died.

Mr Xi held a similar meeting in 2017, which set the tone for that year's leadership congress.

At this week's huddle, ahead of the event likely to be held in October or November, he highlighted the achievements of his tenure as well as challenges ahead.

The 69-year-old leader said the ruling party has "resolutely safeguarded peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".

The comment comes amid rising friction with Washington over a potential landmark visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The government of the world's No. 2 economy has "managed to protect the health and safety of the people" during the pandemic, Mr Xi added, offering another defence of his Covid-zero strategy for containing the coronavirus.

Still, the Chinese leader's reference to "complex risks" appears to acknowledge the congress comes at a turbulent time.

China's economy is struggling under Mr Xi's zero-tolerance approach to the virus - which mandates locking down large cities, employing mass testing and largely closing borders.

Economists say China is unlikely to hit the government's goal of around 5.5 per cent growth this year.

Beijing is sparring with the United States over everything from human rights issues to allegations of Chinese spying, most recently on the Federal Reserve, and a territorial dispute in Taiwan, the island China claims as its own.

Beijing's diplomats have repeatedly warned against a possible Ms Pelosi visit - the first to Taiwan by a sitting House speaker since Newt Gingrich travelled there in 1997.

Those topics are likely to top the agenda when Mr Xi and US President Joe Biden hold their next phone call, which could come as soon as Thursday.

Neither Beijing nor Washington has confirmed the timing of the discussion. Mr Xi hinted at these issues in the meeting attended by leaders including Premier Li Keqiang.

In comments that appeared only in the Chinese account of the gathering, he said "the party faces various long-term tests in terms of governing, reform and opening up, market economy, as well as the external environment".

The party faces dangers including a lack of capabilities, detachment from the masses and corruption, he added.

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