The elite of China’s ruling Communist Party will meet for their long-awaited fourth plenum from Monday, according to state media. More than 300 full and alternate members of the party’s powerful Central Committee will gather behind closed doors for four days in Beijing to discuss how to improve the country’s socialist system and governance, according to state news agency Xinhua. The gathering was announced on Thursday at a Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, who is the party’s general secretary. It is the first full meeting of the Central Committee in nearly 20 months, the longest interval between two plenums – as they are officially called – in recent decades. The wait – seen by some China-watchers as a delay – has fuelled much speculation about discord within the party, as it grapples with headwinds from a trade war with the United States, slowing economic growth and – since this summer – a political crisis in Hong Kong. For Xi Jinping, the biggest danger to the Communist Party is itself But others argue that given the previous plenum was convened ahead of schedule, the meeting this time does not amount to a delay. In spring last year, an additional plenum was squeezed in before the annual legislative meeting for leaders to approve a reorganisation of party and state agencies. Next week’s gathering will be the committee’s first policy-setting meeting to map the country’s way forward. The main agenda is to “discuss important issues concerning how to uphold and improve the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and how to make progress in modernising the country’s governance system and capacity” – a mouthful even by the party’s standards. But analysts say it ultimately translates into the party’s determination to further strengthen its rule at all levels and in all aspects of governance, in the face of challenges at home and abroad. “The point of this plenum is to institutionalise the party’s effort to strengthen its absolute and comprehensive leadership of the country and society since the 19th party congress,” political analyst Chen Daoyin said, referring to a key party meeting in October 2017 that marked the start of Xi’s second term in power. As part of its effort to “modernise” governance, the party rolled out sweeping institutional reforms in spring last year, merging a number of state institutions and bringing them under the direct control of the party. The move was widely seen by observers as a further attempt by Xi to blur the line between the party and the state – a stark departure from efforts to delineate the two since the 1980s. China ends presidential term limits, but what other changes were made to the constitution? The statement from Thursday’s Politburo meeting said the modernisation of state governance should serve to improve the institutions and systems that support “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. It also again laid out the milestones from now on to 2049 to achieve the goal. A draft communique on the party’s modernisation course for China will be presented to the Central Committee for endorsement. The plenum is also expected to reveal changes to the Central Committee’s membership, with two alternate members poised to fill vacancies. Disgraced former top securities regulator Liu Shiyu , and Zheng Xiaosong , the central government’s former top official in Macau who fell to his death last year, are expected to be replaced by Ma Zhengwu, chairman of state-owned investment conglomerate Chengtong Group, and top naval engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming.