A plenum, or more formally, a Plenary Session of a Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is a gathering of all full and alternate members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE held to review and approve policies proposed by the POLITBURO. In the post-Mao era it is customary for each Central Committee to hold seven plenums in its five year term. These closed door meetings are usually the most important political events of any given year. The topics discussed in the plenary sessions range from revisions to the constitution to realignments of development strategy. Deliberations are secret. The General Secretary delivers a speech to the Central Committee, but this speech is usually not published until long after the plenum has concluded.
In the post-Mao era the topics addressed in the seven plenums tend to follow a pattern: the first plenum is held to select the Politburo and Standing Committee membership, the second confirms the leadership of important government posts, the third is devoted to economic development and reform, the fourth focuses on initiatives in law or party building, the fifth lays the groundwork for the next FIVE YEAR PLAN, the sixth addresses problems of ideology, culture, or intra-party rules, and the seventh prepares the Central Committee for the upcoming PARTY CONGRESS.
Documents drafted during plenums are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each compacts the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party. At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd and 5th plenums of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee simply makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the Politburo ahead of time.
See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); Sebastian Heilman, ed., China’s Political System (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield, 2017); Jude Blanchette, “Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed?,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 30 August 2019;