China would never copy a ‘Western political system’

The outgoing General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Hu Jintao, opened the Party’s leadership transition Congress here on Thursday by lauding the country’s achievements over the past decade and warning the next generation of leaders of the dangers of corruption and unbalanced growth.

“If we fail to handle the corruption issue well,” said Mr. Hu, “it could prove fatal to the Party and even cause the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state”.

While Mr. Hu has delivered similar warnings in recent speeches — most notably in July at a preparatory meeting for the Congress — the language used by the head of the Party was much stronger on Thursday. Officials said it underscored the importance of the issue ahead of the leadership change.

The CPC has in the recent months been grappling with the fallout of the Bo Xilai scandal. The purge of the Politburo member highlighted the rampant corruption even in the Party’s highest ranks.

The 18th National Congress, which will usher in the fifth generation of the leadership when it concludes on November 14, opened here at the Great Hall of the People, with armed police deployed on Tiananmen Square and police cars stationed every few yards on the road that runs through the heart of the capital.

Mr. Hu, who will step down as the head of the Party next week but will continue serving as President till March, was accompanied by his predecessor Jiang Zemin as he greeted the 2,268 delegates, who will choose the next Central Committee.

Mr. Jiang was seated next to Mr. Hu, in a reflection of his continuing influence. Both leaders are pushing for their allies to secure prominent positions.

A group of 40 leaders, including Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Mr. Hu next week, members of the Politburo and former leaders such as Li Peng and Zhu Rongji, were seated behind Mr. Hu.

Political reforms

The Party has faced renewed calls for political and economic reforms to tackle corruption and rising inequality.

Delivering the work report, which looked back on the past decade, Mr. Hu said the Party “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”.

“The reform of the political structure”, he said, “is an important part of China’s overall reform”. “However”, he added, “we will never copy a western political system”.

Economic challenges

Mr. Hu hailed China’s rapid economic growth over the past decade, which saw the country grow from the sixth-biggest world economy to the second-largest. Today, he said, the country faced both unprecedented opportunities and great risks.

He warned of the challenge of “unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development” and stressed the need to “speed up the creation of a new growth model and ensure that development is based on improved quality and performance”.

With a continuing slowdown in China’s export-led economy on account of the troubles in the West, Mr. Hu said China would push forward reforms to spur domestic demand as a driver of growth. He said China should target doubling its 2010 Gross Domestic Product and Per Capita Incomes for urban and rural residents by 2020 — a target which suggested China would look to maintain an annual growth rate of 7.5 per cent in the next decade.

  • Failure to handle corruption could cause ‘collapse’ of the Party

  • Country should target doubling 2010 Per Capita Income by 2020