China's President Hu Jintao opened China’s 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 8. During a 90-minute speech, Hu praised the "epic accomplishments" and "superiority" of China’s communist system and gave no indication that government policies would change under his successor, Vice President Xi Jinping.
A team of journalists for Britain’s Telegraph in Beijing observed that Hu’s speech indicated continuity in China’s present course and that the communist state would “never copy” so-called democratic models in the West. The Telegraph quoted an assessment of Hu’s talk made by Chen Ziming, described as a liberal commentator who was arrested after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989: "I listened with concentration but I did not hear anything new.” Chen continued, “I knew there would not be many big changes, but I was still hoping for some small things at least, but sadly there was no sign even of that.”
The Telegraph also cited Qian Gang, the former managing editor of Southern Weekend, described as one of China's most pioneering newspapers, who wrote in a blog after analyzing Hu's speech that "conservative forces within the Party are still very powerful."
Qian added: "There is very little prospect that substantive moves will be made on political reform."
Hu also addressed corruption that has embarrassed the Chinese government in recent months. An AP report in USA Today noted that a top government leader, Bo Xilai, had been purged after his wife murdered a British businessman. Another incident involved a top aide to Hu whose son had crashed a Ferrari, a conspicuously expensive automobile for an individual in his position to drive. Addressing these and other examples of corruption in his government, Hu said: "Nobody is above the law," a comment that caused the more than 2,300 delegates in the hall to applaud. He later added, "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."
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Photo: Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, gestures at Chinese President Hu Jintao at the 18th Communist Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 8, 2012: AP Images