By Frank Ching
A day after the end of the trial of fallen political star Bo Xilai on bribery and other charges, China’s communist party announced a key meeting in November to make critical decisions on comprehensively deepening economic reform.
The meeting, called the third plenary session of the 18th Central Committee, will determine major policies over the next four years and, quite possibly, for much of the next decade. In 1978, at the third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee, Deng Xiaoping took over control of the party and dramatically steered it in a new direction, introducing the policy of reform and opening up and abandoning the class struggle beloved of Chairman Mao Zedong, who ran the People’s Republic of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. Ever since then, a tradition has grown whereby the third plenary session of each Central Committee — elected by the party congress held every five years — proposes key changes. As the state news agency Xinhua explained, “the party needs time to identify problems after the national congresses put forward detailed goals for development” and the “third plenary sessions come at just the right time to address those issues.” Thus, 20 years ago, the third plenary session of the 14th Central Committee endorsed the concept of a socialist market economy. In 2003, the third plenary session of the 16th Central Committee adopted a 12-part document on improving the market economy and building a prosperous society in China. The party plenum this year is also set to consider key policy changes. In fact, some observers say that the reforms this year will be the most sweeping since 1978. The goal set by Deng of making China a modern powerful country has largely been met, now that it is the world’s second largest economy, with growing diplomatic, military and political influence. However, China, with its geographical vastness and huge population, is still a developing country. The party’s goal now is to transform China into a developed country by the middle of this century, when the People’s Republic marks its centennial. The latest party plenum is scheduled to discuss comprehensive and deepened reforms, according to Xinhua. “China faces major economic and social challenges,” it added. The Politburo meeting that decided on holding the next plenary session in November also heard a report on preparation for a experimental free trade zone in Shanghai — one indication of the direction in which the country is moving.