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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 October 2005, 04:29 GMT 05:29 UK
China summit targets poverty gap
A villager walks past a row of riot police in Taishi, southern China
A number of protests have erupted over government corruption
China's Communist party leaders are beginning a four-day, closed-door meeting in Beijing to map out policy for the next five years.

The plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee is expected to focus on plans to address the growing gap between rich and poor in the country.

It comes amid public unrest over corruption, and increasing inequality.

Last year, the government documented more than 70,000 protests involving over three million people.

The country's leaders are worried that rising discontent may threaten their grip on power, says the BBC's Daniel Griffiths in Beijing.

'Stable growth'

The first day of talks was expected to last from 0900 (0100 GMT) to 1230 (0430 GMT) on Saturday, the AFP news agency reports.

Precise details of what will be discussed by the some 300 leaders at the Jingxi hotel in western Beijing have not been officially revealed.

However, President Hu Jintao - who is general secretary of the party - said the priority should be to balance economic, environmental and social development to build a "more balanced and harmonious society".

It is expected that changes will be made to the country's economic growth model.

The new plan will call for "stable and rapid economic growth" while urging a number of "strategic adjustments" to avoid economic swings, the People's Daily newspaper reported.

One of the most important decision-making forums in the country, the secretive meeting will also finalise new criteria by which party and government officials are promoted.



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