Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS

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 US

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 October 1. In the weeks following, the People’s Republic of China will surpass the Soviet Union as the longest-lasting communist state.

China is facing greater international push back as US President Donald Trump piles tariffs on the country’s goods in an effort to secure trade concessions. That dispute has worsened concerns about China’s economic slowdown and contributed to diplomatic tension over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and US 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.