16 Oct 2010

Next five-year plan being drafted for China

6:00 am on 16 October 2010

The ruling Communist Party in China is meeting in Beijing to draw up its next five-year plan for the economy.

The agenda is secret, but analysts say that instead of seeking a high rate of economic growth, China's leaders want to close the gap between rich and poor and between coastal and inland areas.

Analysts will also be watching for signs of who will be China's next leader - due to take office in 2012.

State media said President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are expected to attend the gathering "to discuss proposals for the nation's next five-year development plan" from 2011 to 2015.

China has seen remarkable economic growth in recent years - largely driven by exports.

The BBC reports the meeting comes amid renewed scrutiny of human rights in China.

Earlier this week, a letter signed by 23 Communist Party elders circulated calling for an end to restrictions on the freedom of speech.

The letter described China's censorship system as a "scandal" and an "embarrassment".

Jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo - a champion for democracy in China - was last week awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

A group of 100 activists has now signed a petition calling for his release.