China’s President Hu Jintao has opened a Communist Party congress that begins a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning on corruption.
Addressing more than 2,000 delegates, Hu Jintao said that a failure to tackle the issue “could prove fatal to the party”.
China faced unprecedented opportunities and challenges, he said, and the nation should “aim higher and work harder”.
His speech kicks off a week-long meeting that will see a new set of leaders unveiled.
Security is very tight across Beijing, with many dissidents detained or under house arrest, rights groups say.
Hu Jintao told delegates at the Great Hall of the People that China had to adapt to a changing domestic and global environment.
“We must aim higher and work harder and continue to pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and improve the people’s lives,” he said.
China’s development should be made more balanced and sustainable, he said, and the “serious challenge” of corruption should be addressed.
“If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state,” he said.
Anyone who broke the law would be brought to justice, “whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have”, he said.
The months leading up to the congress have seen China’s political leadership rocked by a scandal involving Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party leader once seen as a candidate for top office.
His wife, Gu Kailai, has been jailed for murdering a British businessman and he is expected to face trial on corruption-related charges.
Across China, meanwhile, recent cases of official corruption have stoked public anger and there have been a series of high-profile mass protests focusing on land grabs and environmental issues.
On the internet, thousands of people have left comments appealing for better measures to fight corruption on official websites launched for the congress by the three major party mouthpieces – Xinhua news agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television (CCTV).
Economic growth has also slowed in recent months and the wealth gap is an issue of great concern, as is China’s ageing population.
Hu HJintao said a new model for economic growth was needed to respond to domestic and global changes.
“On the basis of making China’s development much more balanced, coordinated and sustainable, we should double its 2010 GDP and per capita income for both urban and rural residents [by 2020],” he said.
China’s President Hu Jintao has opened a Communist Party congress that begins a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning on corruption
Amid rumbling regional tensions over territorial rows in the East China and South China Sea, Hu Jintao said the nation should “resolutely safeguard” maritime rights and become a maritime power.
“Active and prudent efforts” should be made to reform the political structure, he said, without giving details.
The congress – for which no formal schedule has been revealed – will last a week and will be keenly observed for any indications of the leadership’s future plans.
During the congress a new central committee is selected. It 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 Hu Jintao 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. Xi Jinping is also expected to take over from Hu Jintao 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.
Analysts say there has also been division at the very top of the leadership, with two rival factions jostling for position and influence.
Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, party organization 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.
In Beijing, more than 1.4 million volunteers have been brought in to help out with security for the congress.
Transport restrictions are in place, street vendors have been told to close and even the flying of kites has reportedly been banned.
Rights group Amnesty International says more than 130 political dissidents were unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest ahead of the meeting.
Chinese Communist Party in numbers:
• Ruled China since 1949
• 83 million members in 2011
• 77% of members are men
• Farmers make up one third of membership
• 6.8 million members work for the Party and state agencies
• Funded by government grant and membership dues
• Private businessmen allowed to join since 2001
• Seven of country’s richest men attending congress
Speculation has been mounting about the whereabouts of China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping, who has not been seen for over a week.
Xi Jinping cancelled a meeting with the visiting Danish prime minister on Monday – his fourth missed appointment.
He also failed to attend an important Communist Party meeting on Friday.
Xi Jinping is expected to be appointed China’s president at a party congress next month that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership.
However, no date has been set for the meeting, fuelling reports that power struggles in the leadership have yet to be resolved.
Speculation has been mounting about the whereabouts of China's Vice-President Xi Jinping, who has not been seen for over a week
Journalists had been given several days’ notice of Xi Jinping’s scheduled meeting with Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Monday, but the planned talks were taken off the programme.
Last Wednesday, he abruptly called off a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On a visit to Washington earlier this year Xi Jinping was given a reception benefiting a head of state.
He has also missed appointments with Singapore’s prime minister and a Russian official.
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry evaded questions about Xi Jinping’s absence at a briefing on Monday, according to reports, saying he had “no information” to provide.
“We have told everybody everything,” Hong Lei said, when pressed.
In response, there has been an inevitable wave of rumors, with explanations on news sites and Twitter ranging from Xi Jinping’s possible involvement in a car accident to a power struggle.
Earlier on when Xi Jinping missed his meeting with Hillary Clinton, rumors circulated online that he had injured his back while playing sports – suggestions ranged from football to swimming and golf.
Yet another rumor said he may have suffered a mild heart attack.
Attempts to search Xi Jinping’s name on Chinese micro-blogging sites are now blocked.
Xi Jinping is predicted to take the helm from current Chinese President Hu Jintao at the party congress, expected to take place in the second half of October.
But the dates of the meeting have yet to be announced, prompting speculation that some of the seats on the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee remain unallocated.
There have also been suggestions that the number of seats may be reduced from the current nine to seven.
Beijing has been shaken in recent months by its biggest political scandal in years with the dismissal of a rising star, Bo Xilai, after his wife, Gu Kailai, was investigated for and later convicted of the murder of a British businessman.
Xi Jinping may merely be suffering from a bad back, as some of the more mundane rumors suggest.
But the secretive nature of the leadership and the febrile atmosphere in Beijing mean there is growing uncertainty about the long-awaited change in leadership to a new generation.
China’s President Hu Jintao has promised to maintain economic growth to support a global recovery, at the start of an Asia-Pacific summit in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
China would pursue steady policies and seek to boost domestic demand, he said.
He was speaking ahead of the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit.
All countries in the region, he said, shared a responsibility to maintain peace and stability.
“The world economy today is recovering slowly, and there are still some destabilizing factors and uncertainties,” President Hu Jintao told businessmen in a speech before the summit.
“The underlying impact of the international financial crisis is far from over.
“We will work to maintain the balance between keeping steady and robust growth, adjusting the economic structure and managing inflation expectations. We will boost domestic demand and maintain steady and robust growth as well as basic price stability.”
President Hu Jintao has promised to maintain economic growth to support a global recovery, at the start of APEC summit in Vladivostok
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged countries in the region to lift more barriers to free trade in the Pacific. American officials say they would welcome a more active Russian role in the region.
“Fostering a balanced and stable economy is a challenge too sweeping and complex for countries to approach in isolation,” Hillary Clinton said.
“If we do this right, globalization can become a race to the top, with rising standards of living and more broadly shared prosperity.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the summit, has expressed concern about the world economy, and particularly Europe’s debt crisis.
“The recovery of the global economy is faltering. We can only overcome negative trends by enhancing the volume of trade… enhancing the flow of capital. It is important to follow the fundamental principles of open markets and free trade,” he said.
“The priority goal is to fight protectionism in all its forms. It is important to build bridges not walls.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she was leaving the talks early to return home after her father died.
The New York Times has recently reported that Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping system that extended as far as China’s president Hu Jintao.
Citing “nearly a dozen people with party ties”, the New York Times said the disgraced Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping network across Chongqing, where he was party chief.
His officials even listened to a phone call involving Hu Jintao, the paper said.
Chinese authorities have not mentioned wire-tapping in reports about Bo Xilai, whose wife, Gu kailai, is being investigated over the death of British businessman, Neil Heywood.
They are investigating Bo Xilai over “serious discipline violations”, while Gu Kailai has been detained as a suspect in the death of Neil Heywood, found dead in Chongqing in November 2011.
Chinese authorities say they believe Neil Heywood was murdered.
The New York Times has recently reported that Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping system that extended as far as China's president Hu Jintao
Bo Xilai – a high flier once expected to reach the top echelons of office – has not been seen in public since he was removed from his political posts, in the biggest political shake-up in China in years.
Bo Xilai’s wire-tapping operation began several years ago as part of an anti-crime campaign in Chongqing, the New York Times said.
It was handled by Wang Lijun, the police chief whose flight to the US consulate in February signaled the start of Bo Xilai’s downfall, and expanded into targeting political figures.
Last year, the paper reported, operatives were caught intercepting a conversation between the office of President Hu Jintao and Liu Guanglei, a top party law-and-order official whom Wang Lijun had replaced as police chief.
A conversation between Minister of Supervision Ma Wen, who was visiting Chongqing, and President Hu Jintao himself was also monitored, the paper said.
Authorities in Beijing found out and began investigating, straining the relationship between Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai.
The wire-tapping “was seen as a direct challenge to central authorities”, the newspaper reported, citing party insiders.
These new claims will add to the sense that this scandal has exposed deep rifts and mistrust at the very highest level of China’s Communist Party.
Also important were fears that Bo Xilai, seen as a divisive populist, could not be trusted if elevated to the highest levels in the party.
Bo Xilai’s fall from grace comes with China due to begin its once-in-a-decade leadership change in October.
Since the scandal erupted, the lifestyle and political and business dealings of he and his family have come under intense media scrutiny.
Bo Xilai’s brother has resigned as director of a Hong Kong-based company, a day after his son issued a statement defending his lifestyle.
Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged strong ties with North Korea, amid serious tensions between the two Koreas in the wake of Pyongyang’s failed rocket launch.
Hu Jintao’s promise came at a meeting with a Workers’ Party delegation headed by Kim Yong-Il in Beijing on Monday.
It came as North Korea threatened “unprecedented action” against Seoul.
Meanwhile the US says it has raised allegations with China that a missile launcher seen in Pyongyang last week was of Chinese origin.
Tension on the Korean peninsula is high following the failed rocket launch on 13 April. Pyongyang said it was putting a satellite into orbit but critics said the launch was a disguised test of missile technology banned under UN resolutions.
US has raised allegations with China that a missile launcher seen in Pyongyang last week was of Chinese origin
South Korea also says there are signs that North Korea may be planning a third nuclear test.
China – which is North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner – did not block UN condemnation of the launch.
But in the meeting on Monday with the Workers’ Party international relations chief, President Hu Jintao emphasized close ties between the two nations.
“We will carry on this tradition… boost strategic communication and coordination on key international issues and work for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” state television quoted him as saying.
China – seen as the country with the greatest degree of influence over North Korea – has repeatedly called for calm on the Korean peninsula, as tensions between the two Koreas have risen.
On Monday North Korea warned of “unprecedented” action against South Korea’s ruling establishment, in response to its criticism of the rocket launch.
A special operation to begin “soon” would “reduce its target to ashes”, the North Korean military said in an unusually strong statement. On Friday North Korea also held a rally calling for the death of South Korea’s president.
South Korea, meanwhile, said last week it had deployed new missiles capable of hitting any target in North Korea.
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a briefing on Monday that Washington had raised questions over a mobile missile launch vehicle seen in a North Korean military parade earlier this month.
Analysts believe that the 16-wheel missile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) seen carrying what appeared to be a new missile may have been of Chinese origin.
Last week Jane’s Defence Weekly, citing an unnamed official, reported that the UN Security Council was investigating the claims.
If it had supplied the technology or vehicle, China could be violating UN resolutions passed after North Korean nuclear and missile tests in 2006 and 2009, the report suggested.
Asked about the matter, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US would “continue to work with the international community, including China, to enforce sanctions against North Korea’s ballistic missile program and nuclear programme”.
“We’ve raised the allegations with the Chinese government … as part of our ongoing close consultations on North Korea,” he said.
China says it has abided by UN sanctions on North Korea.