In Depth

Top-level conclave to shape future of China: What to expect

Meeting of top ranking Community Party officials is expected to focus on internal discipline

The Chinese Communist Party's leaders have gathered for their sixth plenum, the most highly anticipated date in the Chinese political calendar.

In a heavily guarded hotel in Beijing, the top cadre of party officials are taking part in an intense four-day conference that will shape the future of the party and the nation.

What is a plenum?

A plenum, sometimes known as a plenary session, is the term for the part of a conference or meeting where all attendees are expected to be present. It is therefore the opposite of a quorum, the minimum number of attendees needed to proceed with business.

In China, the Communist Party's Central Committee, which represents the party's 88 million members, meet seven times across each five-year term of Congress. The sixth plenum will be the sixth time the 370 members of the Central Committee of the 18th Congress have met in such a fashion since 2012.

What will be on the agenda?

Last year, the fifth plenum released its 13th Five Year Plan, which focused on international co-operation, modernising industry and balancing the wealth gap between urban and rural areas.

Sixth plenums are usually less transformative affairs, traditionally focused on "ideology and party management", says QZ.

Internal discipline is the number one issue for discussion during the four-day session, says The Diplomat, "specifically, the future of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature anti-corruption campaign".

What does it mean for President Xi?

Xi's flagship anti-corruption initiative has resulted in the expulsion of thousands of party officials from the lowest to the highest levels, although several commentators have suggested that the programme has been used to purge Xi's opponents and further strengthen his grip on the party, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Asia analysts say that the sixth plenum will be another major opportunity for Xi to continue the consolidation of his power before the next term of Congress begins next year.

The South China Morning Post refers to a pre-plenum media push, including an eight-part documentary featuring officials who have fallen afoul of the anti-graft drive. It also pinpoints an article in a state newspaper that trumpeted Xi as the strongman successor to Chairman Mao and "stressed the need for Xi to be given 'core' leadership status".

The deliberations of the plenum are kept tightly under wraps, but the major outcomes will be communicated via an official statement shortly after it finishes.

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