When President Xi Jinping officiates at today's celebration of the 65th anniversary of the founding of the people's republic, two other approaching events will no doubt loom in his mind. Top party officials gather this month for the Central Committee's fourth plenum, and next month Xi meets world leaders as China hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Beijing. Both offer Xi a platform to show his administration's progress in tackling corruption and bolstering the party's legitimacy. The Apec summit will lend useful multinational weight to the anti-corruption drive, while the party conclave will examine the rule of law, the permanent cure Xi seeks for the corruption scourge. The plenum is also expected to deal with the high-profile investigations into Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the innermost Politburo Standing Committee and Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and the most senior military officer to be charged over corruption. The opportunities come at a crucial time: Xi has said the fight is at a crossroads and he has staked his life on ensuring its success. After 65 years, the party is struggling to outdo the former Soviet Union's 74 years of communist rule. Xi sees the anti-graft drive - and the rule of law - as more imperative than ever for keeping the party in power. The party has battled for years over how to achieve the rule of law, with infighting periodically stopping or slowing the pace of development. Now, under Xi, the fourth plenum will work out a road map of detailed goals. The question is: how high will he aim to contain power and combat graft? Analysts say Xi's campaign has two goals: to restore popular confidence in the government and to consolidate his power base. Edward Friedman, Hawkins Chair Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sees a system on the brink. He likens conditions on the mainland to the final years of the Qing dynasty and the Kuomintang regime on the mainland. "Sometimes the [People's Republic of China] works or doesn't work much like the Qing dynasty in the crisis years of its decay and decline, in which wealth and power entangled itself with thugs and gangs because ruling groups no longer could appeal to the better angels of the Chinese people," Friedman said. "More than a century later the crisis continues, and continues to feel as an ultimate threat to [Communist Party] leaders, one not easily ended by campaigning against corruption while corrupt and crumbling political forces undergird the ruling party," Friedman said. Whether Xi succeeds or not, it's a high-stakes game. Renmin University political scientist Zhang Ming said Xi had wagered his political fortune on the drive. "He has pinned his hope on the crusade, anticipating that it will help consolidate his power, boost economic reform and overhaul the bureaucratic system," Zhang said. If Xi does hold sway, it could at least mark the end of the "old man" politics that has been a hallmark of China's reform era. Warren Sun, professor of Chinese Studies at Monash University, said that by removing high-profile corrupt officials, largely Jiang Zemin protégés, Xi would break up the gerontocracy and emerge as the popular strongman at the head of a new ruling generation. But the crusade has already angered some in the corridors of power. In combating the "armies of corruption", targeting "flies and tigers" alike, Xi's campaign has toppled around 50 serving and retired senior officials of at least vice-ministerial rank. With the case against Zhou, it has also broken a longstanding party taboo on charging a member of the Politburo Standing Committee with a crime. In doing so, Xi has challenged the three most powerful interest groups in mainland politics. Not only has he taken on the internal police empire that Zhou built and the People's Liberation Army under Xu, he has also thrown down the gauntlet to powerful state-owned businesses with the arrest of many senior executives, including Jiang Jiemin, the former head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, who had previously lead the state oil giant China National Petroleum Corp. Many question how long the campaign can go on, let alone whether Xi can bring down bigger tigers than Zhou and Xu. "If Xi upsets too many powerful vested interest groups, his political authority could be dramatically challenged," Sun said. Steve Tsang, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, said Xi would sustain his campaign for as long as necessary to ensure the party functioned effectively and efficiently as an instrument of control and of reform. That means that not all retired Standing Committee members would be in the firing line, provided they agreed to fade out in return for a de facto amnesty. "We may see this [reflected] in the way retired top leaders are ranked," Tsang said. "Xi is likely to use the forthcoming party plenum to assert how far he has established his authority and rectified the party, so that he can take the party forward to the next step, which is to outline how he would like to deepen reform," Tsang said. As part of those discussions, Xi is likely to use the plenum to examine Zhou's abuse of power between 2007 and his retirement in 2012 as secretary of the Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, the powerful body that oversees all law enforcement authorities, mainland sources say. The gathering is expected to zero in on accusations that Zhou ignored the rule of law by employing heavy-handed tactics and carrying out personal vendettas against those who dared to challenge his authority or threaten his interests. But the result will not be the introduction of any meaningful political reform in the name of rule of law, analysts say. Sun said Xi might reinstate vigorous party discipline, or introduce some rules to deter corruption, but there was unlikely to be a major change in the legal system, which, after all, had served Xi well in promptly and effectively dealing with corrupt officials. An independent judiciary, for example, would equate to inefficient government in the eyes of Chinese leaders. Once the plenum is over, the focus will shift in November to the 2014 Apec Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing, the first time the summit has been held in the country since the 2001 Shanghai gathering under the auspices of Jiang. Xi is likely to use the plenum to assert how far he has established his authority and rectified the party Steve Tsang Apart from showcasing the achievements under his stewardship, Xi will also use the event to seek international cooperation in the anti-graft crusade to promote the healthy and sustainable growth of the Chinese economy. The 2013 Apec summit in Bali, Indonesia, saw the creation of a regional anti-corruption network, which will meet for the first time on the sidelines of the Beijing summit. The plan is to share information to prevent corrupt officials taking assets out of one economy and into another. China is more eager than any other nation to develop such a network given the huge flight of corrupt officials and their ill-gotten gains from the country. Between 2002 and 2011, US$1.08 trillion of illicit funds were spirited out of China, according to estimates by the US-based Global Financial Integrity. Tsang said Xi was expected to use the Apec meeting to boost his status. "Xi would like to show that China under his leadership is now receiving due respect and recognition from its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific," he said.