Asia Economy

China’s Fourth Plenum: What you need to know

All eyes on China's Fourth Plenum
All eyes on China's Fourth Plenum

China's fourth plenum, a key four-day meeting of the ruling Communist Party's powerful Central Committee, kicks off in Beijing on Monday.

Rule of law will be the centerpiece of the summit, where policymakers are expected to focus on consolidating anti-graft efforts in addition to ensuring economic stability by accelerating reforms.

"After a 'lost decade' due to a fragmented leadership in 2003-2013, we believe the new leadership headed by President Xi Jinping offers a real chance for serious reforms in coming years towards rule of law and economic rebalancing," said Ting Lu, chief China economist at Bank of America Merill Lynch.

"The plenum may have significant impact on the Chinese economy and society in coming years," he said.

Here's what's anticipated to materialize out of the historic meeting, according to a survey of economists:

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(1) An anti-corruption bureau

Authorities will likely set up an anti-corruption bureau that's independent from local governments and reports directly to the Central Disciplinary Committee, according to Citi.

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"During the past year, the Party's Central Disciplinary Committee has been the backbone in the anti-corruption campaign, and the objective at the first stage is to alert government officials by investigating and publicizing a number of high- profile cases," said Shuang Ding, China economist at Citi.

"The next step is to introduce institutions to reduce chances of corruption and investigate cases according to pre-set rules and procedures," he said.

(2) A more independent judiciary system

Reforms aimed at increasing the independence of judiciary and legislative branches of the government.

For example, to reduce interference of the local governments, local courts may be separated from the local government and report directly to the Supreme Court, said Ding.

How will China's anti-graft drive impact the economy?
How will China's anti-graft drive impact the economy?

(3) Land reform in the country side

Reforms to providing farmers better protection of land ownership rights and allowing them to keep land when obtaining their urban hukou, or permanent residence permit.

The lack of clear land rights makes farmers vulnerable to land grabs by local governments for development, a major source of anger among farmers who say they aren't compensated fairly.

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Without clear land and residency rights, there is a risk the government's urbanization could fall behind, endangering wider economic reform.

(4) Fiscal reforms

Reforms to make local governments' budget-making processes more transparent and accountable.

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, local governments went on a borrowing binge to finance infrastructure projects as part of the massive stimulus launched by the central government.

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They are now sitting on a large pile of debt estimated at 3 trillion yuan, according to an official audit released late last year, and are stuck with projects that aren't producing enough cash flow to repay principal and interest on the debt used to finance them.