China Prepares for Party Congress and Leadership Transition – NYTimes.com
Mr. Hu told the ranks of party-picked delegates assembled in the Great Hall of the People that China faced a period of major change and “complicated domestic and international circumstances.” Seated near him was his presumed successor, Xi Jinping, who is all but certain to take over as party chief after the congress ends next week and to take the reins as president in March.
Mr. Xi has privately signaled that he is aware of increasingly urgent calls from economists, intellectuals and some party insiders for a new round of market liberalization and even measured political relaxation to cure what they see as a deepening economic and social malaise. Mr. Hu acknowledged the problems facing the party, including corruption, but avoided specific mention of the scandals that have blighted his final year in power.
“Currently, the conditions of the world, the country and the party are continuing to undergo profound changes,” he said, reading from excerpts from his report to the party congress, which convenes every five years.
“We are confronting unprecedented development opportunities and challenges,” he said, adding, “The gap between rich and poor is growing.”
While acknowledging that China’s wealth remains unbalanced among regions and unequally distributed, Mr. Hu told the congress that his decade as top leader had brought robust economic growth and the makings of a “moderately prosperous society.”
“Over the past five years, there have been major achievements in every aspect of work,” he said. “Reform and opening up have gained major advances, and the people’s standard of living has clearly risen.”
Mr. Hu’s congress report is a major part of the public ceremony that accompanies China’s leadership transitions. But the real decisions about who will succeed him and his cohorts have been made in secretive negotiations involving senior officials and party elders.
In a show of unity, Mr. Hu earlier entered the assembly hall accompanied by the dominant party elder, former President Jiang Zemin, who shuffled gingerly to his seat. But party insiders have said Mr. Jiang, 86, played a major role in shaping the next leadership circle and voiced frustration with the record of Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
Contrary to some observers’ predictions, Mr. Hu did not play down the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, whose revolutionary heritage sits increasingly awkwardly with urban middle-class wealth and values. Mr. Hu also repeatedly mentioned the phrases “scientific development” and a “harmonious society,” which he has used to sum up his goals of a stable society under firm party control.
Officially, the new leadership team is to be selected in the coming week by the 2,268 delegates to this congress, the 18th in the party’s 91-year history. In fact, much of what will go on during the congress has already been decided. The delegates are voted on by lower-ranking members but based on guidance provided by higher-ups, a process known as “democratic centralism.”