China leaders hold resort talks as transition looms

Xi Jinping, file image from 4 May 2012
Image caption Leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping met academics and advisors in Beidaihe on Sunday, Xinhua said

Senior Chinese leaders are reported to be gathering at a seaside resort for private meetings ahead of the leadership change later this year.

Beidaihe, the resort east of Beijing, is the party's traditional venue for closed-door political summits.

State media said Xi Jinping - expected to be China's next president - met academics and advisers there on Sunday.

It is likely the gathering will be used to map out the leadership transition due in the next few months.

Xinhua news agency said the meeting on Sunday was attended by "renowned experts and grassroots talents" including educators, artists and astronauts.

As well as Xi Jinping, other figures tipped for top roles such as party organisation department chief Li Yuanchao and state councillor Liu Yandong were also reported to be there.

However, the BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing says it is highly unlikely that the public will be given any information about what is thought to be the real purpose of the gathering - a negotiation about the membership of the party's next politburo standing committee.

Image caption The conclave comes with Bo Xilai's wife due to go on trial for murder

Seven of the committee's nine members are set to retire in the autumn and a new generation of leaders will take their place.

Jockeying for position in these once-a-decade political transitions is always intense but private, our correspondent adds.

This meeting comes in the wake of the biggest scandal to hit the Chinese political leadership in more than two decades.

Later this week, the wife of former Chongqing leader Bo Xilai - who was once tipped for the highest office - is to go on trial for murder.

Gu Kailai is charged with killing British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.

The fate of Bo Xilai - who has since been removed from his official posts - remains unclear, but he has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.

Some observers wonder whether, as a charismatic politician who broke with tradition by openly courting promotion, his family's downfall is at least partly politically motivated, our correspondent adds.

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