This week, a clutch of China's top economic policymakers will gather in Beijing to set their objectives for next year.
In previous years, this Central Economic Work Conference has hit the headlines by determining the central government's target for economic growth in the following year.
In 2008, for instance, the assembled officials determined that China's state sector should pull out all the stops in order to maintain a nationwide economic growth rate of at least 8 per cent, despite the slump in global demand following the implosion of United States investment bank Lehman Brothers.
In recent years, the objectives set by the annual meeting have been more modest. The official growth target for last year, for example, was just 7.5 per cent, the lowest in eight years. The target for this year was an even more moderate "about 7.5 per cent", a more flexible aim which allowed for the possibility of some under-shooting.
This week's meeting is likely to play down the growth target even further. Economic growth is still important, of course, but not at any cost. A continued rapid expansion powered by massive investment and ballooning cheap credit - the model favoured in recent years - would only threaten an uncomfortably hard landing down the road.
Instead, Beijing's policy objectives for next year look likely to emphasise the leadership's programme of economic reforms above rapid growth. As a result, it is possible the official target could be lowered to just 7 per cent in order to drive home the message to regional officials that the central government's economic policy objectives have changed.
While the overall growth target may be downgraded, this week's meeting will almost certainly retain the current "prudent" setting for China's monetary policy. But although monetary policy has been officially prudent since 2011, in reality the authorities have been tightening China's monetary conditions for the past six months in an attempt to slow the country's rapid credit growth.
In the past five years, the total amount of outstanding credit in China's economy has expanded from about 120 per cent of gross domestic product to more than 200 per cent.
The country's leaders are well aware that similar rapid bouts of credit expansion in other emerging economies have typically ended in destructive debt crises. And they also know that episodes of financial liberalisation like the one the leadership now plans have all too often led to financial bubbles and subsequent banking crises.
As a result, Beijing will keep monetary policy on a tight rein into next year.
That doesn't necessarily mean the authorities will increase official interest rates. Benchmark one-year lending and deposit rates have been held steady since the middle of last year. But following recent reforms, the benchmark rates are no longer as important as they once were.
After regulators scrapped the floor on loan rates earlier this year, the benchmark lending rate has lost much of its significance. Instead, financiers are now paying closer attention to the central bank's liquidity operations and their impact on market-determined interest rates, both in the short-term interbank market and the longer-term bond market.
And both markets are signalling that borrowing costs are heading higher. Since May, the closely watched seven-day repo rate has climbed from 3 per cent to about 4.5 per cent. Over the same period, 10-year government bond yields have risen from 3.4 per cent to 4.5 per cent.
That trend looks likely to continue. Meanwhile, the authorities look set to press ahead with the leadership's reform programme by removing the regulatory ceiling on bank deposit rates.
The process will be gradual. Officials are nervous of triggering a bidding war between rival banks competing to attract deposits. That would weaken profits and push up financial risks across the sector. They are also anxious to introduce a deposit guarantee programme in order to bolster savers' confidence and forestall possible destabilising swings in deposit flows.
As a result, the regulators are likely to start by removing deposit rate ceilings just for long-term fixed deposits, only slowly liberalising shorter-term time deposits, and leaving demand deposits - where China's depositors keep most of their money - very much until last.
Even so, some progress looks probable in the near term. Given the high degree of central control over the formal banking system and considering that much of the preparatory work has already been done, interest-rate deregulation should be one of the simplest of Beijing's planned reform measures to implement.
As a result, it is seen by many observers as a bellwether of the government's appetite for broader liberalisation. A failure to press ahead soon would risk sending the signal that official enthusiasm for the reform agenda is waning.