China's Communists hold key meeting amid rising challenges

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at a dinner marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. BEIJING (AP) China's ruling Communist Party is holding a key meeting amid a drastically slowing economy, ongoing protests in Hong Kong and pushback abroad against Beijing's global ambitions. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BEIJING – China's ruling Communist Party is holding a key meeting this week amid a drastically slowing economy, ongoing protests in Hong Kong and pushback abroad against Beijing's global ambitions.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the party's 19th Central Committee opened its fourth plenary session Monday. It said Xi Jinping, the party's leader and China's president, discussed a draft document on strengthening party rule but gave no details.

The document addressed "some major issues concerning how to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and advance the modernization of China's system and capacity for governance," Xinhua said.

China's economic growth slid to 6% in the third quarter of the year, its lowest level in almost three decades amid weakened domestic demand for everything from cars to apartments.

Although having little effect on the overall economy, the ongoing trade war with the U.S. has battered the export sector, even while Xi has vowed not to back down.

Meanwhile, the anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong show no sign of abating in the face of the Beijing-backed government's refusal to give in to demands for increased government accountability and direct elections for the city's leader.

The chaos in Hong Kong has had knock-on effects in Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory. Support for unifying with China under the "one country, two systems" framework in place in Hong Kong has dived to almost zero on the island, despite China's repeated threats to annex it by force.

Internationally, nations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere are challenging Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, while countries such as Australia have protested alleged party interference in their domestic politics.