A long-awaited gathering of China’s ruling elite will finally take place in October, state media reported on Friday, after almost a year of delay amid a prolonged trade war with the United States and unprecedented civil unrest in Hong Kong. The 202 top members of the ruling Communist Party – its Central Committee – and 172 alternate members, who can attend the meeting but have no voting rights, would gather behind closed doors in October, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing a decision by the Politburo, the body’s 25-member inner circle. But the report did not specify a date for the meeting, or whether it would closely follow the National Day celebration on October 1. The meeting will be the Central Committee’s fourth plenary session since the start of President Xi Jinping’s second term in late 2017. According to Communist Party convention, the committee, which includes senior officials, top military brass and executives from state firms, should have met last autumn to chart the course for the country’s economy and reforms. Chen Daoyin, an independent political analyst, said the top party leaders considered the issue in depth before deciding to hold the gathering in October. “The party might want to take advantage of the momentum from the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on October 1,” Chen said. “The nationalist and patriotic sentiment of the people will be at the peak after that.” China’s former securities regulator Liu Shiyu is probed over family members’ alleged insider trading and favouring hometown IPOs, sources say He said the party elites appeared to have reached consensus on Xi’s leadership, and he expected the president’s authority to be further bolstered after the meeting. “The greater the internal and external problems, the more the Communist Party will emphasise centralisation, unity ... and the importance of working together and all members must have unified thoughts and views,” he said. Analysts said the delay in holding the meeting suggested a lack of shared views among the top echelon over how to cope with the fallout from China’s slowing economic growth and its bitter trade war with the US. The last meeting, or plenum, was in February 2018, when the agenda included personnel decisions and a reform plan for state institutions to give the party greater control. Chen said October’s meeting would probably not touch on the trade war or the Hong Kong protests. “Those are like the operational problems of a company, and must be resolved by general managers, but the plenum is like a meeting of board directors, which is to talk about the principle policies,” he said. Beijing praises Macau official who fell to his death, calling Zheng Xiaosong a man of integrity Using party jargon, the Xinhua report said the October meeting would discuss “sticking to and perfecting” the country’s socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and major issues including pushing forward the modernisation of the national governance system and governance capacity. Earlier this month, Beijing announced support for Shenzhen, which neighbours Hong Kong, to build a “demonstration city” for further reform and socialism with Chinese characteristics. Among the absentees at the Central Committee meeting will be former securities regulator Liu Shiyu, who “turned himself in” to the country’s corruption watchdog in May 2019; and Zheng Xiaosong, the former director of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau, who died in a fall from a building last October. ‘Nothing suspicious’ in death of China’s top official in Macau The gatherings have long been a key opportunity for the party elites to reach consensus on a wide range of topics, from the economy, to ideology, social issues and party building. The best known – and arguably the most significant – plenum was held in 1978 to launch China’s reform and opening up programme, which brought four decades of rapid economic growth. More recently, a Central Committee meeting in 2015 put an end to China’s controversial one-child policy, while the last gathering – held at extremely short notice in late February and days before the national legislative sessions – proposed the scrapping of presidential term limits that would have required Xi to step down in 2023.