SINGAPORE/BEIJING – China’s ruling Communist Party will hold its most important meeting of the year in October — its first such gathering in 20 months — as the country grapples with a slowdown at home and a trade war with the U.S.
The party’s Central Committee, which is made up of more than 200 officials from the government, military and state-owned enterprises, will gather in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The schedule was set during a meeting of the 25-member Politburo led by President Xi Jinping on Friday, Xinhua said.
The committee will discuss key issues about maintaining and improving China’s socialist system and national governance, according to Xinhua, which didn’t announce specific dates. The committee hasn’t convened since recommending an end to the constitutional limits on Xi’s tenure in February 2018.
The party hasn’t gone so long without such a meeting since late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched his “Reform and Opening Up” campaign more than 40 years ago. China has offered no explanation for the change.
While the plenum comes at a point in the party’s five-year political cycle that’s usually reserved for setting economic policies, the Xinhua report suggested an agenda that was more political. The report said the committee would enact policy to ensure the party was governed “in accordance with the law.”
The leaders will meet during a period of triumphant anniversaries for the ruling party, with Xi expected to preside over a military parade to mark the country’s 70th anniversary on Oct. 1. In the weeks following, the People’s Republic of China will surpass the Soviet Union as the longest-lasting communist state.
Xi will deliver a major speech to mark 70 years since the country’s official founding, the government said Thursday.
The speech on Oct. 1 will be accompanied by a national day parade showcasing China’s advances in military technology, Wang Xiaohui, executive vice minister for the Communist Party’s Publicity Department, said at a press briefing in Beijing. “The purpose is to motivate and mobilize the whole party, the whole military, and all of the people to unite closely around the CCP Central Committee with Xi at the core,” Wang said.
The speech will be closely watched for hints on China’s policy direction, especially with the nation facing pressure on multiple fronts, from the trade war with the U.S. to protests in Hong Kong to a slowing domestic economy. Xi is expected to review the nation’s achievements over the past 70 years and also talk about China’s future.
The scale of the parade will be larger than those held to celebrate the 50th or 60th anniversaries of the PRC, Maj. Gen. Cai Zhijun, who is vice director of the office for parade organization, said at the press conference. Cai said the parade would show China’s “great achievements” in national defense and the “accumulation of power for promotion of national rejuvenation.”
The parade will include strategic nuclear missiles and advanced fighter jets such as the nation’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, the South China Morning Post has reported.
China is facing greater international push back as U.S. President Donald Trump piles tariffs on the country’s goods in an effort to secure trade concessions. That dispute has exacerbated concerns about the China’s economic slowdown and contributed to diplomatic tensions over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and American military support for Taiwan.
The plenum will be the fourth Central Committee conclave since Xi secured a second term as the party’s general secretary in October 2017. In February 2018, the committee held an additional summit to discuss ending the constitutional provision that barred China’s head of state from serving more than two consecutive terms — paving the way to Xi staying in power indefinitely.