Final preparations are
under way in the Chinese capital ahead of a Communist Party congress
that will see a new set of leaders unveiled.
All the delegates have arrived in Beijing for the meeting which begins the once-in-a-decade power transfer.
Security is tight across the city, with policemen checking passers-by and transport restrictions in place.
President Hu Jintao is expected to open Thursday's meeting with a work report on achievements and future goals.
Spokesman Cai Mingzhao said the congress "will be one of
great importance, when China is in a crucial stage of building a modern
and prosperous society in all respects, taking on reform and opening up,
and accelerating the transformation of the growth pattern."
A commentary in Party mouthpiece the People's
Daily said that the party was leading the nation on "a path towards
"At the 18th party congress that opens tomorrow, people will hear more interpretations of this path," it said.
No formal schedule for the meeting has been revealed, but Mr Cai announced on Wednesday that it would last one week.
The meeting's more than 2,000 delegates choose a central
committee, which then chooses the country's highest decision-making
body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo.
The process takes place behind closed doors, with the make-up of the top bodies in reality decided ahead of time.
The current Standing Committee has nine members, of whom
seven including Mr Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao are expected to step down.
The other two members, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, are
expected to become party leader and deputy respectively. Mr Xi is also
expected to take over from Mr Hu as China's president in March 2013.
Ahead of the congress there has been speculation that the number of seats on the committee will be reduced from nine to seven.
Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, party
organisation chief Li Yuanchao and Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang are
thought to be the front-runners.
But the exact composition of the committee will not be clear until it is
formally announced next week, likely on 15 November at a plenum
expected to follow the congress.
US President Barack Obama has declared a "major disaster" in New York state after storm Sandy smashed into the US East Coast, causing flooding and cutting power to millions.
A record 4m (13ft) tidal surge sent seawater cascading into large parts of New York City's subway system.
Across the city, a power sub-station exploded, a hospital was evacuated and fire destroyed 50 homes.
At least 20 people are reported dead across several US states.
In New York City, 10 people were killed and the death toll could still rise, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
In New Jersey, three people were killed, including two parents killed by a falling tree when they got out of their car; their children, 11 and 14, who remained inside, survived.
A woman in West Virginia died in a collision with a cement lorry, in heavy snow caused by the storm.
New Jersey state Governor Chris Christie said 2.4 million households had been affected, double the number hit by Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
The devastation was "beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," Mr Christie told a news conference.
The tidal surge from the storm left fields of debris 7ft (2.25m) high and carried small railway goods cars onto elevated sections of the New Jersey Turnpike, he said.
It is likely to take more than eight days to restore services fully, Mr Christie estimated.
At least six million homes and businesses are without power. In all, about 50 million people could be affected by the storm, with up to a million ordered to evacuate their homes.
Sandy, now downgraded from a hurricane but described as a "super-storm", is churning north and heading for Canada.
Over the past week, Sandy has killed more than 80 people as it carved a path of destruction through the Caribbean.
The storm made landfall close to Atlantic City in New Jersey on Monday at about 20:00 local time (midnight GMT), with winds of more than 80mph (129km/h).
It collided with cold weather fronts from the west and north to create what some forecasters have dubbed a "Frankenstorm".
Much of Atlantic City was under water and 30,000 residents were evacuated.
In New York City, parts of Lower Manhattan were quickly inundated as the Hudson and East rivers overflowed. Seawater poured into road tunnels and the subway system. Images showed cars being swept along streets by the torrent.
"The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," city transport director Joseph Lhota said early on Tuesday.
City officials had earlier ordered some 375,000 residents out of Lower Manhattan and other areas under threat.
"Lower Manhattan is being covered by seawater," Howard Glaser, director of operations for the New York state government, was quoted as saying. "I am not exaggerating. Seawater is rushing into the Battery Tunnel."
Battery Tunnel links Manhattan with Long Island.
The city's Consolidated Edison utility provider said an explosion at a sub-station, probably caused by flooding or flying debris, blacked out much of Lower Manhattan.
The company said about 500,000 homes in Manhattan were without power.
As dawn broke, residents emerged to see the havoc wreaked by the storm.
In other developments:
Fire has destroyed about 50 homes in the New York City borough of Queens
More than 200 patients were evacuated from New York University's Tisch Hospital after power went out and a backup generator failed
A large tanker ship has been washed on to a street in Staten Island, New York
America's oldest nuclear power plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, was put on alert due to rising water, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said
The New York Stock Exchange will stay shut on Tuesday - the first time it has closed for two consecutive days owing to weather since 1888
A crew member from a replica of HMS Bounty has died and the captain is missing after the ship sank in mountainous seas off North Carolina on Monday
A construction crane in New York was bent double next to a skyscraper, while the facade of a four-storey building collapsed.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm surge had surpassed the highest forecast, but he expected waters to start receding.
At 05:00 EDT (09:00 GMT) the National Hurricane Center placed the centre of Sandy about 90 miles (145km) west of Philadelphia with maximum sustained winds of 65mph (105km/h) with higher gusts.
Forecasters have said Sandy could linger over as many as 12 states for 24-36 hours.
President Obama has also declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Public transport has been suspended in the US capital, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.
Amtrak has suspended passenger train services across the north-east, while nearly 14,000 flights were cancelled, according to Flightaware.com.
Up to 3ft (91cm) of snow was expected to fall on the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.
The disaster-estimating firm Eqecat has forecast that Sandy could cause economic losses to the US of between $10bn and $20bn (£6.2bn-£12.4bn).
Afghanistan is to host its first professional men's boxing match on Tuesday, amid tight security in the capital Kabul.
The 12-round bout is for the vacant World Boxing Organisation Intercontinental middleweight belt.
German-born Afghan boxer Hamid Rahimi will fight Tanzanian Said Mbelwa.
Millions of Afghans are expected to watch the match, which will be broadcast live. The Taliban banned boxing towards the end of their rule.
Organisers have dubbed the match a "Fight 4 Peace" and say it is being hosted to make a statement of freedom to take part in sport in a country blighted by war and militancy for decades.
Correspondents say the fight is likely to be a sell-out and has attracted interest from fans all over the country.
Mbelwa, 23, fights in the super-middleweight division and has a record of 31 fights with 19 wins, eight losses and four draws.
Rahimi is six years older than his opponent and has won 20 of his 21 fights. He has been followed by hundreds of fans to each interview and public appearance he has made in the week leading up to this match.
Speaking earlier this week, he said that only sport can bring deeply divided societies together and that he hoped the "Fight 4 Peace" would do just that in Afghanistan.
"The kids don't take guns, they come the sports way, and I believe in sports, I am a sportsman and I believe sport has the power and the magic to bring all people and all regions together. I hope it will bring peace to my hometown," he said.
"The whole country is so excited and looking forward to the 'Fight 4 Peace.' It's simply overwhelming."
Mbelwa said that he understood that the occasion was "a very special event for Afghanistan and sent a very important message for the whole world".
"But once this bell rings it will be a boxing fight like any other. And I can promise you that I will be victorious. I am very well prepared and I am sure that I will knock out Rahimi in the fourth round," he said.