Historic plenary session begins
Updated: 2013-11-10 07:55
By Li Yang in Beijing (China Daily)
Crowds visit Tian'anmen Square to experience the atmosphere as the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee opens in Beijing on Saturday. Cui Jiani and her parents from Hebei province posed for photos in front of a giant LED screen displaying China's achievements since the reform and opening-up policy. The historic policy was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978. Xu Jingxing / China Daily
Politicians gather in Beijing for closed-door meetings on anticipated changes in government and economy
Top-level decision makers are in Beijing for a four-day meeting starting on Saturday that is expected to make history.
With Chinese leaders promising "a comprehensive agenda", the Third Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China's 18th Central Committee is likely to result, on Nov 12, in decisions covering almost every aspect of the nation's reform and development.
There was no fanfare and no live coverage on the national television network's evening news and the closed-door proceedings are to be reported indirectly by the media.
However, outside the meeting, expectations are running high - from opinions in the official media to individual blogs on the Internet, from hints dropped by high-ranking officials to research papers published by high-level think tank academics.
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said in late October that the reform plan to be adopted by the Third Plenum will be "broad in scale", with "major significance", and will result in a boom for the non-State sectors of the economy.
"Comprehensively deepening reform" means the reform will be more systematic, integrated and coordinated. The CPC will work to speed up the development of a socialist market economy, democracy, cultural development, social harmony and ecological progress, according to a statement by the Politburo of the CPC 18th Central Committee on Oct 29.
"We should let labor, knowledge, technology, management and capital unleash their dynamism, let all sources of wealth spread and let all people enjoy the fruits of development fairly," it added.
The first two plenums of the CPC Central Committee elect Party leaders and central government officials. The third plenum is for the new Party leadership to unveil its work plan.
All Third Plenums of each CPC Central Committee since 1978 have made important strategic decisions on market economy reforms. The resulting achievements stemming from decisions over the past 35 years had served as stepping-stones for the nation's progress.
According to the Politburo, a comprehensively deepened reform is needed for the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and the building of a strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and modernized socialist country, which is the main target set by the 18th National Congress of the Party last November.
This is also the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, the new concept mooted by Party chief Xi Jinping.
Since new Party leaders took their posts last year, they have solicited opinions from within and outside the Party for the draft decisions to be discussed at the plenum, through meetings across the country with people from various walks of life.
Xi's inspections in Tianjin in May, Wuhan in July, Shenyang in August and Hunan in November as well as Premier Li Keqiang's tours of Guangxi in July, Lanzhou in August, Dalian in September, and Heilongjiang in November sent clear signals that China's new reforms will be carried out in land and State-owned enterprises, and financial, fiscal, tax and service sectors.
The government's functional transformation is central to all these tasks. It is aimed at fostering the healthy development of market and society with less and less government intervention.
Li noted in a conference on government reform on Nov 1: "We need to write the major articles on local government reform by integrating central and local efforts."
Both Xi and Li pointed out that government reform is "a self-inflicted revolution" and it takes more "political courage and wisdom" to win over the resistance of those with vested interests.
Since government reform is key for economic restructuring and industrial upgrading, observers believe the reform of the Chinese government itself has come to a crucial stage, given the negative influence of the global crisis on the nation's economy.
"It will also be important to improve the rules and the legal rights for business, and to modernize the tools of finance and exchanges, including, gradually, the convertibility of the yuan," noted Pierre Picquart, a China observer and professor of geopolitics at the University of Paris 8.
"China needs free rules for businesses, but under the control of Chinese law. It is necessary to give more liberty to companies and markets. But the 'social law' must be respected," he added.
Domestic experts indicate it is impossible for the government to continue the old model of economic growth, which has translated to huge government debts, land finance, high investments, consumption, emissions and excess productivity.
Zhu Lijia, professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance, believes the core part of the economic reform plan to be released by the plenum will actually "restructure political and social relations" through reshaping the distribution of revenue and responsibility among governments of various levels and different departments.
The odds of the draft will lie in how the reformers fared in their struggle against interest groups that "enjoy privilege under current systems", Zhu said.
As Xinhua News Agency reported, the suggestions and opinions from different places, government departments and the delegates of the 18th CPC National Congress as well as the main think tanks have also been fully absorbed and considered.
Li Xiang contributed to the story.