China Leadership Monitor

The Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee

Friday, January 30, 2004

The recent Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee suggests that despite obvious signs of tension within the leadership over the past year, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Hu Jintao has begun to put his distinct stamp on policy. A long "Decision" on the goals of further economic reform—the only document emerging the plenum to be made public—indicates a greater concern with balanced growth and the social dimensions of economic development than did the political report adopted at the 16th Party Congress in fall 2002. Although the plenum did not take up the issue of political reform explicitly, it adopted a new party procedure that called for the Politburo to report on its work to the whole Central Committee, a step advertised as a step toward "inner-party democracy." Recent articles in party journals indicate that discussions continue on political reform, albeit of a limited sort, and that there are likely to be significant developments in this area in the future.