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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
China announces date for congress
Hu Jintao
Mr Hu is expected to make changes to strengthen his grip on power
China's ruling Communist Party has announced it will hold its National Congress meeting on 15 October.

The congress brings together about 2,000 senior party officials every five years to set out the country's priorities for the years ahead.

President Hu Jintao is expected to consolidate his power at this year's meeting with a leadership reshuffle.

The meeting comes as China faces key challenges such as public anger over corruption and a growing income-gap.

Environmental pollution, rising food prices and loss of international confidence in the safety of food and product exports have also tested the Chinese leadership.

The country is also under unprecedented scrutiny ahead of the Beijing Olympics next year.

Leadership speculation

The 17th National Congress will begin in Beijing on 15 October, state media reported on Tuesday.

China's state news agency Xinhua described the meeting as "very important... held at a time when China has entered a key stage of reform and development".

Congress is expected to approve a new term in office for Mr Hu.

It is also expected to approve appointments to the nine-member standing committee of the politburo, the party's highest decision-making body.

Such appointments will be watched closely by analysts, who expect Mr Hu to use a reshuffle to strengthen his control of the party leadership.

Changes at the top could also indicate who is being lined up to succeed Mr Hu, who is expected to retire in five years time.

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