Incumbent and retired party chiefs are meeting to finalise decisions on the new leadership line-up ahead of the 18th party congress.
The talks, which will also settle the nation's major policy direction for the next decade, come as President Hu Jintao made a push for party unity. A party insider said the final decision on the make-up of the Politburo and its innermost Standing Committee would be hammered out in various sessions in Beijing in the coming weeks.
Current and retired leaders will also meet informally at the seaside Beidaihe resort in Hebei province. 'While most current leaders are now in Beijing, many retired leaders are in Beidaihe, escaping the hot weather and pollution in the capital,' the source said.
In a speech made to more than 400 provincial senior officials on Monday, Hu called for continued reforms and opening up in the face of unprecedented challenges. But he stressed the importance of 'socialism with Chinese characteristics' under one-party rule.
Vice-President Xi Jinping made a speech to the same meeting yesterday, repeating Hu's line, state television reported.
Analysts said Hu's speech was aimed at setting the tone and policy direction for the party congress, due to be held in the coming months.
'Hu was reiterating the direction of future policy and sending a message that the top leadership has reached consensus on major issues,' said Wu Si , editor-in-chief of the Yanhuang Chunqiu, a liberal political magazine supported by reformist retired officials.
Hu, 69, is expected to step down as party head at the congress and as president in March. Wu said Hu's address constituted a major policy speech, given its timing and the audience, and state-run media gave it extensive front-page coverage.
Hu called on party officials to 'unswervingly' carry forward reforms and 'confidently' overcome difficulties on the road ahead. 'We must not be afraid of any risks, and not be confused by any distractions,' he said.
He stressed the importance of improving people's livelihoods and allowing workers, including farmers, to share more in the gains of economic growth, which will probably be his major political legacy.
'[We must] continue the scientific concept of development, promote social harmony and improve people's livelihoods and welfare,' Hu said.
Zhang Lifan, a political affairs commentator, said Hu wanted to send the message the party should continue with policies that fulfilled his political legacy, but noted he was about to pass this 'unaccomplished task to his successors'.
Zhang, a historian formerly with the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Hu had largely failed to make any significant progress in political reform during his rule over the past decade.
The meeting where Hu spoke was a show of party unity, with all nine Politburo Standing Committee members attending. The meeting was chaired by Xi, who is expected to succeed Hu. Li Keqiang is expected to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao.