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China’s 18th Communist Party Congress, popularly known as “the Big 18th,” kicked off Thursday in the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing, as the world’s most populous nation geared up for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.

The congress is interesting to bizzers largely because Chinese B.O. is forecast to exceed $2.5 billion this year. Data from the biz watchdog, the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (SARFT), shows that it already chalked up $1.95 billion in the first three quarters of 2012.

Beijing is in security lockdown for the event. Racing pigeons have been banned, and taxis ordered to remove window handles from the back seats of cars, to stop people passing out seditious messages. Human-rights groups claiming that police have rounded up the usual suspects ahead of the meeting.

And access to the Internet has slowed to a crawl as the system of online controls — the so-called “Great Firewall of China” — kicks in.

It is also affecting virtual private networks that allow users to bypass Internet filters.

In a lengthy speech to open the event, outgoing president Hu Jintao warned that corruption threatened the ruling Communist Party and the state.

“If we fail to handle corruption, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state,”

Hu warned, going on to pledge ongoing efforts to make China more democratic.

The man poised to assume the leadership, Xi Jinping, has shown himself to be amenable to the concerns of Hollywood, having overseen the February deal to free China’s restrictions on foreign films, allowing entry into the country of 14 more 3D or large-format films per year, and a profit-sharing increase on those films to 25%, up from 13%, for foreign shingles.

The question many are asking is if Xi will open up the world’s second-biggest movie market or keep focused on boosting the domestic biz by keeping a lid on overseas interests.

Will he have scope to relax crippling censorship, and ease the rules for foreign ownership in the Chinese biz. It could take a few months of his rule before this question gets answered.