After Long Gap, China’s Ruling Elite to Gather for October Conclave

August 30, 2019 Updated: August 30, 2019

BEIJING—Top officials of the Chinese Communist Party will hold a key meeting in October to discuss government policies and “perfecting” the country’s socialist system, state media said on Aug. 30, more than a year after the last was held.

Plenums, as they are formally called, are generally held every autumn, and are an opportunity for the party’s elite to map out policy priorities for the year ahead.

Unexpectedly, however, one was not held last autumn, amid speculation in Beijing of disagreements within the Party leadership about the direction of the country, amid a bruising trade war with the United States and slowing economic growth.

State-run media Xinhua did not specify an exact date for October’s plenum, a closed-door meeting in Beijing of the party’s Central Committee, which is roughly 370-strong and the largest of its elite bodies that rule China.

It will “study several important issues on the upholding and perfecting of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the promotion of the modernization of state governance,” Xinhua said, using typically turgid party phrasing.

Socialism with Chinese characteristics refers to the party maintaining one-party political control, but following some principles of a market economy.

The plenum decision was taken at a Politburo meeting chaired by Party leader Xi Jinping, which discussed the importance of ensuring the party’s, and the state’s, “lasting peace and stability,” Xinhua added.

The plenary session will be the fourth since a party congress ended in October 2017, ushering in Xi’s second term as head of the Communist state.

The last plenum, in February 2018, discussed personnel decisions and a reform plan for state institutions to give the party even greater control.

The one before that approved a plan to scrap term limits for the head of state, effectively meaning Xi could stay in power for life if he wishes. That decision was rubber-stamped by the National People’s Congress in March of last year.

October’s meeting comes as the economy is still slowing, and tension with Washington shows no signs of ending, not only over trade but other issues such as the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own.

Xi’s authority has also been challenged by pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which has served as a major political challenge ahead of a massive military parade in Beijing on Oct. 1 to mark seven decades of Communist China.

By Ben Blanchard