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Communist Party elite open key meeting on China's roadmap


CHINA'S Communist Party elite kicked off a key meeting in Beijing on Monday, as the country's leadership faces pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a protracted 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.

According to official news agency Xinhua, on Monday President Xi Jinping delivered a work report on behalf of the Central Committee's Political Bureau, and "explained a draft document" of Central Committee decisions on "some major issues". These included how to "uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and advance the modernisation of China's system and capacity for governance", Xinhua added.

The term governance is about "strengthening the party's control over all governing organs", explained Jude Blanchette, an expert on Chinese politics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

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The likely outcome of this week's meetings "will be that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is more firmly entrenched at the core of political and governing power", he wrote on Friday.

Hua Po, a Beijing-based political analyst, said the Fourth Plenum may also result in a document that criticises past policies by former leader Deng Xiaoping - known for his market-oriented economic reforms - to elevate Mr Xi's own status.

It is a practice that Chinese leaders, including the country's founder Mao Zedong, have carried out so past policies fall in line with their own principles, he added.

The key conclave will run from Monday to Thursday in Beijing, and will be the first since February 2018.

Many of the country's most significant policies have been announced after plenum meetings, with the last one 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.

The push to "modernise" China's governance and party- and state-run institutions comes as Beijing battles international and domestic issues on multiple fronts.

In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, the Chinese central government has been shaken by months of anti-Beijing unrest by pro-democracy protests.

A slowing economy - exacerbated by a lingering trade war with the United States - is also weighing on Chinese leaders, with the country's GDP growth hitting its slowest rate in nearly three decades in the third quarter.

Other domestic issues, such as environmental deterioration and economic disparity between rural and urban areas, are also driving the need for institutional "transformation", wrote state-run China Daily on Monday.

This week's long-awaited conclave will also end a significant delay between sessions - the longest hiatus since 1977, according to CSIS experts - as the CCP's constitution mandates at least one plenum per year.

But analysts say it is unlikely the delay is due to opposition to Mr Xi within the party.

The Chinese leader's power was on full display just a few weeks ago during a massive military parade commemorating 70 years of Communist Party rule, said Mr Blanchette.

"Since the Third Plenum, Mr Xi has convened two extraordinary meetings of all the top party, state and military leaders," wrote Bill Bishop, publisher of the Sinocism China Newsletter, last week.

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

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