11/08/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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Hu Jintao's 90-minute 'swan song'

by Wang Zhicheng
The outgoing president slams corruption, which could "cause the collapse of the party". The law must be equal for everyone irrespective of social status or condition. Hu reiterates the importance of "scientific development" for balanced social and economic development. China is set to modernise its armed forces and become a maritime power to protect its borders. The Communist party is both doctor and patient.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - In a 90-minute speech, outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao opened the 18th Congress the Communist Party of China, which will see a change in leadership, with a fifth generation of leaders replace the fourth one. Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao are set in fact to resign in favour of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who have been groomed for years to head the fifth generation.

In his farewell address as president and party general secretary, Hu Jintao spoke about everything. On several occasions, he did however stress the problem of corruption among party members, something, he warned, that might "cause the collapse of the party" if left unchecked. For this reason, he urged party members to exert greater discipline on their families and staff and prevent graft and kickbacks.

In view of a long period of infighting in the party and the expulsion of Bo Xilai, Hu called on his fellow Communist to achieve political unity, slamming the rival faction, the 'princelings' or  children of high-ranking party officials who benefitted from family connections. He told the congress that party members must rise through the ranks "on merit, without regard to their origins".

Speaking about corruption, China's foremost problem according to public opinion polls, Hu said that anyone who broke the law should be brought to justice, "whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have."

In his 'swan song,' the president reiterated the issues he had pursued during his ten years in power, especially the idea of "scientific development ," which aims to balance break-neck economic growth with grassroots social welfare, environmental protection, a reduction in the urban-rural gap and some political reforms. Nevertheless, this excludes a "Western political system". Instead, Hu emphasised, as has been done for more than 30 years, "socialism with Chinese characteristics".

The country, he added, will move to a new model of development based on domestic demand now that international markets are in crisis and Chinese exports less in demand.

Although an advocate of peaceful development, he insisted China must pursue the modernisation of its armed forces to "safeguard" its maritime rights and become a maritime power.

Hu and his prime minister Wen Jiabao had already addressed many of the topics the president mentioned in his speech, without any tangible result. Pollution in fact remains a huge problem; the gap between rich and poor has widened considerably and corruption has become endemic.

For some analysts, the inherent problem is that the party sets targets and implements them without any external oversight or criticism.

In a curt statement, Zhang Lifan, a historian formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that party leaders "could punish their men, such as Bo" Xilai, but they "don't want any supervision from outside of the party," thus concurrently playing the roles of doctor and patient.

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