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Top Chinese leaders meet to decide blueprint for next 5 years

October 18, 2010

CNN
October 15, 2010 13:38]

The 300 members of the Communist Party's Central
Committee have gathered in Beijing for the four-day plenary.

All eyes are on Vice President Xi Jinping, who is
expected to assume the presidency when Hu Jintao
steps down after his second and final term in 2012.

But whether Xi is on track to succeed Hu will
depend on whether the plenum elects him vice
chairman of the Central Military Commission, a
powerful group that oversees the 2 million-strong People's Liberation Army.

The post is important symbolically and
practically. Without it, 57-year-old Xi would
remain an outsider in military affairs. His
appointment would follow tradition. Hu was
promoted to the position years before he got the party's top job.

The policy-making body also will consider
proposals for China's next five years of economic
and social development. The leaders are expected
to decide guidelines, goals, tasks and key
measures, as well as review China's economic and
social development over the past five years.

Despite 30 years of astonishing economic growth,
the nation faces a host of intractable
challenges: a growing gap between the rich and
poor, rising unemployment, environmental issues and corruption.

The blueprint for the next five years will call
for development of strategic industries,
including information technology, biotech and
energy-saving technologies, Chinese media reports say.

2011-15 will be critical for building a
moderately prosperous society, state-run media
said Friday, citing the Central Committee's Political ureau.

"It would be a time of difficult issues for
deepening the reform and opening up process while
accelerating the transformation of the nation's
economic development pattern," the bureau
announced last month, according to the Xinhua news agency.

China's leaders are under political pressure.
Supporters of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo are
agitating for the release of the freshly minted
Nobel Peace Prize winner. A group of prominent
Chinese intellectuals also has published a
strongly worded open letter, calling for freedom of speech.

The number of "mass incidents" -- large
demonstrations, labor strikes, farmer protests --
also are on the rise. Often, they deteriorate
into violence, disorder and greater repression.

But corruption will remain one of the toughest
challenges for China's next leader. Corruption
drains the public coffers. It also undermines the
legitimacy of the Communist Party and fuels social unrest.

The party leaders are discussing "good
governance" measures to curb corruption, though
it's unclear whether they will finalize them at the four-day plenary.
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