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China to chart Communist Party future amid crackdowns

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BEIJING: China’s Communist rulers will gather in October to discuss their party’s future, state media said Tuesday, as President Xi Jinping tightens controls over the immensely powerful organisation.

The meeting, known as the Sixth Plenum, will focus on “the comprehensive and strict management of the Party”, the official Xinhua news service said, addressing the increasingly uncompromising set of rules that manage the membership and behaviour of the organisation’s more than 88 million members.

China’s Communist Party is the world’s largest and most powerful political entity. It controls the government and military of the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, and imposes its will on issues ranging from education and religion to the heads of state-owned companies.

Membership comes with privileges — including preferential access to government employment — but requires its cadres to follow increasingly strict discipline.

Since becoming General Secretary in 2012, Xi has carried out a much-publicised anti-corruption drive, although critics say it can be used for internal faction-fighting, with its highest-profile victim the once hugely powerful security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was sentenced to life in prison.

The anti-graft campaign has been accompanied by an expansion of the rules governing apparatchiks’ behaviour, including strict admonitions against publicly breaking party discipline.

Plenums are key meetings of China’s Communist leaders on specific issues, such as economic development or the rule of law.

The Sixth Plenum will be held in October, Xinhua said, citing a statement from the Central Committee.

It comes ahead of next year’s 19th Party Congress, which will decide the new line-up of the party’s top body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) — a key signal of who is likely to succeed Xi in 2022, when he is due to step down.

Five of the current seven PSC members are expected to retire at the Congress, and many experts believe Xi and his number two, Premier Li Keqiang, are locked in a struggle to fill the vacancies with their own supporters, and protect their own positions.

 

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