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Xi Jinping celebrates the 40th anniversary of China's reform Dec. 18. Photo: Sheng Jiapeng/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

There has been a lot of speculation that a big political meeting would happen this week in China, but rather than the Fourth Plenum it could be a meeting of provincial and ministerial-level officials similar to the one held the summer of 2017 before the 18th Party Congress.

What's happening: Sure enough, Chinese President Xi Jinping convened a seminar of provincial and ministerial-level officials on “preventing and defusing major risks to ensure sustained and healthy economic development and social stability.”

Per Xinhua...

In his speech, Xi analyzed and raised specific requirements on the prevention and defusion of major risks in areas including politics, ideology, economy, science and technology, society, the external environment and Party building.

Quick take: Xi is telling the party that it should prepare for heightened risks across every dimension. The seminar lasted 4 days, a duration that is a clear sign of the intensity of concerns.

Why it matters: Xi's ability to convene and chair this meeting should be seen a sign of his strength in the party, not weakness. He is laying the groundwork for even more ideological tightening and enhanced social control in the face of the economic issues and the many sensitive anniversaries in 2019.

  • These include the 100th of the May Fourth Movement, the 30th of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and the 70th of the founding of the PRC.

The bottom line: The Year of the Pig looks like it may be an especially nasty, brutish year in China.

Go deeper: Samantha Hoffman writes in Foreign Policy:

"The party leadership uses anxiety to shore up loyalty within the party and to convince Chinese society of its need for the party’s protection. Anxiety is a tool. Whether it is real or manufactured, or for the party’s internal consumption or the public’s, is almost irrelevant. There must always be an enemy to create anxiety."

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.