Communist Party marks the end of Hu era
China’s ruling elite gathered in the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing yesterday for the 18th Communist Party Congress, popularly known as “The Eighteenth Big”, as China geared up for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.
A giant red star looked down from the ceiling on a hall bedecked with red flags and packed with 2,268 hand-picked delegates. Two died before the week-long session.
The meeting takes place in the world’s most populous nation against a backdrop of growing social unrest, public anger at corruption and a widening wealth gap.
The meeting is expected to name Xi Jinping, who visited Ireland in February, as China’s new leader.
In a 100-minute speech to open the event, outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao warned that corruption threatened the 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,” he said.
His remarks come from his report, Firmly March on the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Complete the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in all Respects.
“Reform of the political structure is an important part of China’s overall reform. We must continue to make both active and prudent efforts to carry out the reform of the political structure and make people’s democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice.”
By “democracy” he is almost certainly talking about greater representation at grassroots level within the 82-million member Communist Party, not greater democracy in a western sense.
Corruption has been a major issue in the run-up to the congress. Former rising star Bo Xilai was purged from the party, accused of taking bribes, of various sexual peccadilloes and of links to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, has been given a suspended death sentence for her part in the Briton’s death.
“We must never let words act in place of the law or personal power replace the law; nor will we allow the ignoring of the law for personal benefit,” Mr Hu said, in a clear reference to Mr Bo.
The language of the congress is couched in Marxist-Leninist verbiage, with lots of “struggles” and pledges to carry out policy “unswerving” or “perserveringly”.
For most of Mr Hu’s decade in power, China was the fastest growing major economy in the world, with double-digit rates of growth every year. Living standards of most Chinese have risen substantially.