China Third Plenum: Leaders discuss key reforms

File photo: members of China's Politburo Standing Committee, from left, Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Wang Qishan in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, 15 November 2012 China's 376 Communist Party Central Committee members, including its powerful Standing Committee, will be at the meeting

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China's leaders have begun a meeting where the economic and political agenda for the next decade will be discussed.

In a brief report announcing that the four-day meeting had opened in Beijing, state news agency Xinhua said it would discuss "major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms".

Areas expected to be discussed include liberalising the financial sector, state-owned enterprises and reforming China's household registration system.

The talks are held behind closed doors.

The meeting is being closely watched after senior Communist Party official Yu Zhengsheng said last month that "unprecedented" economic and social reforms would be discussed at the meeting.

A report released by the Development Research Centre of the State Council, a state-affiliated think tank, has called for three broad areas and eight key sectors for reform.

The Third Plenum

  • The Third Plenum is the third meeting of the Xi Jinping-led 18th Central Committee
  • Traditionally reforms are expected at the Third Plenum, because new leaders are seen as having had time to consolidate power
  • The tradition was begun by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 when he opened China's doors to the world
  • The meeting, which takes place behind closed doors, lasts from 9 to 12 November

The plan, known as the 383 plan, called on leaders to liberalise the market, encourage innovation and competition, and increase government transparency.

However, as the meeting is being held in secret, experts say its impact may not be apparent until much later.

Analysts do not expect any political reforms to be discussed.

Where economic or social reforms are agreed, local officials and groups with vested interests may also be reluctant to implement them.

Third Plenums refer to the third time new leaders of China lead a plenary session of the Central Committee.

Possible reforms

  • A senior Chinese official has promised "unprecedented" reforms - but much of what is decided may not become clear for some time
  • Major issues that could be on the agenda include financial liberalisation and reform of state-owned enterprises. Household registration reform (hukou) and land reform have also been flagged up - but costs and vested interests may make these tough issues to tackle
  • Political reform is not expected to be on the agenda

They generally take place a year after new leaders take office, after they have established their power base.

Previous Third Plenums have had a major impact on China's development.

At the Third Plenum in 1978, former leader Deng Xiaoping announced the opening-up of China's economy, spearheading major market-oriented reforms.

In 1993's Third Plenum, former leader Zhu Rongji announced the "socialist market economy" and dismantled a large part of China's state-owned sector.

Security is tight in Beijing ahead of the meeting, with tensions higher than usual in the wake of last week's incident in Tiananmen Square.

Five people were killed in what Chinese officials called a "terrorist attack" incited by extremists from the western region of Xinjiang when a car drove through crowds and burst into flames near an entrance to the Forbidden City.

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