At first glance, the annual plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is not only secretive but dull. For instance, after a delay of more than one year, the Chinese leadership announced in August that the fourth plenary session of the party’s 19th Central Committee would be held in October in Beijing, without giving firm dates.
The main agenda of the gathering of nearly 300 of the party’s most influential members is to “discuss important issues concerning how to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and make progress in modernising China’s system and capacity for governance”, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. But one should not be turned off by the mouthful. Translated, the top policy-setting meeting will discuss ways to further strengthen the rule of the party at all levels of the country and legitimise its power in the face of what the official media has often termed “changes in the world unseen in a century”.