Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping will face his biggest political test to muster support for his stepped up anti-graft campaign against top retired officials at a gathering of ruling Communist Party elite this week.
Analysts say the meeting of party elders for annual informal get-together at Beidaihe resort will test President Xi`s authority to hold the party together as senior cadres and interest groups feel the heat from his sweeping anti-corruption campaign.
The meeting of party elders and the leadership at the seaside resort for the traditional low-key gathering comes after the president reportedly acknowledged that his two-year-old drive against graft faced challenges.
"The two armies of corruption and anti-corruption are in opposition and are at a stalemate," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted President Xi as saying.
The report did not elaborate, but analysts and insiders suggested the campaign had damaged interest groups with links to some of the party elite, and Xi had clearly realised that it was make-or-break time in the fight against them, it said.
The anti-corruption campaign - the biggest in China`s recent history involving both civil and Army officials - led to the investigations against Zhou Yongkang, who was part of the Communist Party of China`s nine-member Standing Committee which ruled the country till 2012.
Xi, who has emerged as a strong leader, broke an unwritten rule that incumbent and retired Standing Committee members were immune from corruption probe, intensifying speculation that some affected political groups were trying to challenge his authority.
Renmin University political science professor Zhang Ming said the situation was complicated, and different parties might hit back in Beidaihe.
Zhang said the anti-graft campaign would dominate the informal summit, as leaders were expected to discuss how far the crusade would go, or if any "bigger tigers" would be caught.
The announcement of probe against Zhou suggested that Xi did not want to discuss the case at the meeting, but move forward on other possible major corruption cases and issues, he told the Post.
"At the centre is what kind of rule of law the leaders want," he said. Last week, the CPC Politburo said the annual plenary session in October of the party`s 205-member decision-making Central Committee would discuss ways to advance the rule of law.
There were also concerns over the crackdown on multi- nationals in China which have invested billions of dollars in the country in the past decade.
Firms like Microsoft, Accenture, Mercedes and Audi faced anti-monopoly probes.
Jonathan Holslag, research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said Xi`s biggest challenge was that he was becoming isolated.
"Business leaders are losing patience with his economic policies. The military complains about being stripped of some of its privileges. The party is getting increasingly plagued by distrust and the public is starting to feel that the easy times are over," he said.
One aim of the Beidaihe summit was to reduce behind-the- scenes power struggles and reunite the party under Xi ahead of the annual plenary session, the analysts said.
Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said: "This is meant to deliver a powerful, effective and efficient Leninist party, to enable Xi to introduce the reforms he feels essential to secure the `China Dream` of promoting a rich and powerful China under the leadership of the party and himself".
"Whether this process of unrelentingly reinforcing the power of the party will gather a momentum of its own, so much so that it just keeps going, is an open question," Tsang said.