China: Hu warns of corruption at congress

2012-11-08 08:10

Beijing - Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao warned on Thursday that corruption threatens the ruling Communist Party and the state, but said the party must stay in charge as it battles growing social unrest.

He also promised political reform, but offered no dramatic changes and ruled out copying a Western style of government.

In a "state of the nation" address to more than 2 000 hand-picked party delegates before he hands over power, Hu acknowledged growing public anger over graft and issues like environmental degradation had undermined the party's support and led to surging numbers of protests.

"Combating corruption and promoting political integrity, which is a major political issue of great concern to the people, is a clear-cut and long-term political commitment of the party," Hu warned. He was opening a week-long congress at Beijing's Great Hall of the People that will usher in a once-in-a-decade leadership change in the world's second-largest economy.

"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. We must thus make unremitting efforts to combat corruption," Hu said in a nearly two-hour speech.

The run-up to the carefully choreographed meeting, at which Hu will hand over his post as party chief to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping, has been overshadowed by a corruption scandal involving one-time high-flying politician Bo Xilai.

Bo targeted

The party has accused him of taking bribes and abusing his power to cover up his wife's murder of a British businessman in the southwestern city of Chongqing, which he used to run.

While Hu did not name Bo - a man once considered a contender for top office himself - he left little doubt about the target of his comments.

"All those who violate party discipline and state laws, whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have, must be brought to justice without mercy," Hu told delegates, one of whom was his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

"Leading officials, especially high-ranking officials, must ... exercise strict self-discipline and strengthen education and supervision over their families and their staff; and they should never seek any privilege."

The New York Times said last month that the family of Premier Wen Jiabao had accumulated at least $2.7bn in "hidden riches", a report the Chinese government labelled a smear.

Hu entered the venue accompanied by Jiang, signalling the former president still wields considerable influence in the party and in the secretive deliberations to decide on the new leaders.

Problem areas

As Hu delivered his speech under a massive, golden hammer and sickle, a healthy-looking Jiang sat flanked by senior members, party elders such as Li Peng and incoming leaders such as Xi.

The congress ends on 14 November, when the party's new Standing Committee, at the apex of power, will be unveiled. Only Xi and his deputy Li Keqiang are certain to be on what is likely to be a seven-member committee, and about eight other candidates are vying for the other places.

The congress also rubber-stamps the selection of about two dozen people to the party's Politburo, and approves scores of other appointments, including provincial chiefs and heads of some state-owned enterprises.

"We must uphold the leadership of the party," Hu said.

He also named healthcare, housing, the environment, food and drug safety and public security as areas where problems had "increased markedly".

The meeting is a chance for Hu to cement his legacy before retirement and ensure a smooth handover of power, and his prime-time speech was a chance to push his achievements and perhaps help steer a course going forward.

Local war

"It was a rather conservative report," said Jin Zhong, the editor of Open Magazine, an independent Hong Kong publication that specialises in Chinese politics. "There's nothing in there that suggests any breakthrough in political reforms."

While Hu promised unspecified "reforms to the political structure" and more encouragement of debate within the party, he gave no hint that China would allow broader popular participation.

"We should ... give full play to the strength of the socialist political system and draw on the political achievements of other societies. However, we will never copy a Western political system," Hu said.

While Hu will step down as party leader, Xi will only take over state duties at the annual meeting of parliament in March.

Just weeks after anti-Japan riots swept city streets following a row over disputed islands, Hu also said China should strengthen the armed forces, protect its maritime interests and be prepared for "local war" in the information age.

"We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests and build China into a maritime power," he said.

Pigeon-flying ban

China is also locked in dispute with Southeast Asian neighbours over areas of the South China Sea. Relations with the United States have been bogged down by accusations of military assertiveness in the region from both sides.

The government has tightened security in the run-up to the congress, even banning the flying of pigeons in the capital, and has either locked up or expelled dozens of dissidents it fears could spoil the party.

Security was especially tight on Thursday around the Great Hall and Tiananmen Square next door, the scene of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were crushed by the military.

Police dragged away a screaming protester as the Chinese national flag was raised at dawn.

The party, which came to power in 1949 after a long and bloody civil war, has in recent years tied its legitimacy to economic growth and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Hu said China's development should be "much more balanced, co-ordinated and sustainable", and it should double its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020, as previous targets have implied.

Slow growth

But China experts say that unless the new leadership pushes through stalled reforms, the nation risks economic malaise, deepening unrest, and perhaps even a crisis that could shake the party's grip on power.

Chinese growth slowed for a seventh straight quarter in July-September, missing the government's target for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis, but other data point to a mild year-end rebound.

Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle permanently in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.

  • lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 08:43

    The heydays do not last forever. The people of China are not robots. They too will eventually rise up and demand a government chosen by the people.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 08:59

      China's position on civil unrest is clear, it is the obligation of the government to better the lives of the people. If they cannot deliver, then the people will complain. But there is another side to the social contract. If the government and powers that be is delivering, ala Beijing, then undue disruption is counter to the interests of the people at large, and should be quelled so that the entire society can achieve all that they can.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-08 09:18

      Fidel and his namesake Fidel Castro are the two remaining Communists on Planet Earth. They both like centralized power and government controlled thought.

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 11:18

      fidel - The Chinese government has done a wonderful job of preventing their people from seeing how their government has been taking them for a ride for too long now. As more and more Chinese acquire wealth overseas, travel etc so more and more will start putting pressure on their government at home for change. Right now is still early days......100s of millions of Chinese still live in the rural areas below the poverty line oblivious to seeing what is really going on. But with all things in life, nothing remains the same forever. The days of Chinese success of copying Euro/Anglo technology and using domestic slave labour days are numbered.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 11:53

      What are you talking about. The only country that has achieved major advances in getting rid of poverty is China. The result, hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the most rapid economic development in history, probably. Freedom and democracy have different meaning to different people. As I read somewhere one Chinese commenting on democracy, "why would we want democracy, look what it has done for you guys". It is the policies of the Chinese government which are popular and proved to be correct that plays the part. That is the secret that the communist party stays on.

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 12:10

      Fidel - improved economic growth does not mean improved economic welfare.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 14:05

      Who does the economic growth benefit, if not ordinary Chinese!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 15:38

      Careful that you don't get banned again for spewing filth!

  • jeremy.thewasp - 2012-11-08 09:05

    Communist / corruption....? surely not...can those 2 words ever be together Hell yes - Just ask out bunch of thieving twats in Parliament Maybe a ANC delegation were just there and gave them tips on how to completely screw the people of a country and get very rich quickly A - Anarchy N - Nepotism C - Corruption Its a 'Simple' formula that they spread and do so well.... And "THEIR" voters support them in this too... Yip - and the chinese are coming, they closer than a lot of people think ai ai ai ai ai

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 09:08

      "and the chinese are coming, they closer than a lot of people think" I suggest you start learning mandarin, Ni Hao!

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 11:29

      The Chinese are anything but communist. They are nothing more than state controlled capitalism with the worst kind of slavery.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-08 09:27

    One thing about this is clear , when the Govt of China controls information in the manner they do . The corruption you see surface can be a very good indicator of the level of this kind of activity which is kept out of view. The problem with a one party state is that the silencing of corruption serves all in the parties interests, the risk of public outrage when it does emmerge becomes a even greater motivation to keep it silent. Keep an eye out for drives to nationalism when suspicion and accusations crop up,like the anti-japanese rallies around tiny non-inhabited islands which all of a sudden become 'disputed'. As China's influence across the globe becomes greater , everyone will be looking for greater transparency so it should be very interesting how the auithorities manage their challenges in the next decade.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 10:22

      China only shifts direction when China wants to. Why should they do otherwise, and a rapid, radical western-style shift will not happen. Stability is paramount, and to the Chinese leaders, this must remain while other things change slowly. Once you understand this, and study where this perspective comes from, you see that 1) western dreams of China following its framework are just dreams 2) Chinese foreign policy is equally based on stability, not radical regime change. Seeing it from a Chinese perspective helps to understand why China's Arab spring moment is wishful thinking. And why China will not sanction Western style interventions.

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 11:25

      Fidel - China has no foreign policy. But that is changing. The cracks in Japan and China's relationship are no longer a secret. India wants to sabotage the Chinese economy and South Asian countries are already conceding their pacific waters to the US. Lets not mention that the US is due to name China a currency manipulator in the near future and place forex sanctions accordingly.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-08 11:32

      Fidel - the staw man rebuttle on anti-western non-sense is irrelevent, China's success has sharp correlation to its opening up to the world and the move to more free market practices . This is still irrelevent because no-one is expecting radical shifts from them , you cannot however ignore (as the Chinese leadership has recognised) the pressures they face and their role in the international community as their development becomes increasingly dependent on their trading pertners and global economic environment.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 11:44

      Territorial disputes are normal between states and not evidence of an absent coherent foreign policy. Mutual respect and Soft power is a key element of China’s foreign policy. In the long term the rise of China and India (which will follow its own interests when necessary,) is inevitable and right. Between them they represent over 25% of the world's population. What is depressing here is the US response. China expands links with Africa? Set up AFRICOM. China's influence is growing in the Asian and Pacific area. See it as essentially as a military threat rather than a normal process of trade. Refer to everything as weapons, and use the language of war to describe trade. The battle of words coming from the U.S. administration on an undervalued currency in China has been there since the last few years, as China accumulated higher and higher trade surpluses with the U.S. The Chinese have studied history and know how the US has undermined the currencies of others and manipulated its own currency for its benefit only, and won't be making the same mistakes. At the rate that the US has been debasing its own currency through QE1 and QE2, the Chinese, holding over $3 trillion of US sovereign debt are spot on in pegging their currency. The world needs to decide whether the interests of 1.3 billion poorer Chinese comes ahead of that of 300 millions of Americans.

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 11:55

      Fidel - been silent on international issues and supporting autocratic regimes that are a domestic & international threat is not considered mutual respect but rather geo-politics for self gain. There is nothing wrong with this because everybody lives for self gain but to label Chinese self gain "mutual respect" is quite the euphemism. Ofcourse China and India follow their own interests, just like every other nation. The US is absolutely right about China in Africa. And the Chinese are absolutely right about the US in Africa. They both are monsters and Africans are the losers in the end. The US had to keep the bond interest payments low, hence why they printed so much money to buy bonds. Otherwise the US would of been Greece 10 fold between 2008 - 2010 already.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-08 11:58

      Thinking that the interests of the Chinese and Americans comes at each other expense is a false premise as well as the argument , i mean what chance do the interests of Djabouti with a tiny population have at the mighty needs of the Chinese population. What is interesting is the insinuation that China and which ever other country you deem acceptable can work towards their interests but America in perticular has no right to persue theirs .

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 12:13

      @lesvokli Chinese policy of non-interference in other country's internal affairs is well-known and consistent. No one, as far as I can tell is of the opinion that the Chinese are "the saviours of Africa". You have, therefore, created an argument which you have then proceeded to shoot down. As to whether they will be worse than the US, we'll have to wait and see, you appear to have already made up your mind but you don't say what you are basing that particular opinion on. Is China’s presence in Africa bane or boon to the erstwhile “dark continent”? Of course it is beneficial. Just the competition is now working to keep a lot of folks honest and they have to stop ripping off Africans. That is the real reason why there is so much complaint from the US. We Africans on the other hand say, the more the merrier, Bring cash!! Of course it would be naive to see China in Africa as purely altruistic. But what they are doing is exporting their own experience of rapid development in exchange for natural resources. Africa now has a choice of who it does business with. That has to be a good thing. Do you just think the Chinese are terrible people and that it is inevitable that they will behave badly? I, for one, will start getting worried when the troops start disembarking.

      lesvokli.pitsiladi - 2012-11-08 12:20

      Fidel - I am very happy that Africa is rising, Africans deserve it after so many 100s of years of despair. I just don't like foreign governments, whether it the West or East "keeping" governments in power in Africa for their interests. I am a supporter of Africans themselves choosing their leadership and principals. Chinese investment in Africa is truly wonderful. But so is European investment. I know it is hard for Africans to see anything good the Euros brought here because of slavery and degradation. But that is all gone now and Africans each year are now benefiting from what imposed on them by Euros and in the long run will most probably land up better off than Europeans.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 12:44

      "I just don't like foreign governments, whether it the West or East "keeping" governments in power in Africa for their interests. I am a supporter of Africans themselves choosing their leadership and principals." Africa will get to that stage, but what Africa needs the most now is stability and development. Interestingly I've been reading some studies done about the relationship between social development and democracy,i.e. which comes first, and it's been fascinating reading about arguments on both sides, the exogenous theory vs endogenous theory.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 13:03

      Ninja, I will be the first one to tell you that the US can persue its interests anywhere in the world. What I have a problem with is their seeing of China's economic engagement in both the Pacific and Africa as essentially a military threat rather than a normal process of trade, and this coming from the Free Market Fundamentalists. Those who claim to believe in “free markets,” do not believe in a free marketplace of ideas, any more than they believe in a free marketplace of goods and services. In both material goods and in ideas, they want the market dominated by those who have always held power and wealth. They worry that if new ideas enter the marketplace, people may begin to rethink the social arrangements that have given us so much suffering, so much violence, so much war!

  • michelle.walkerblake - 2012-11-15 12:11

    @ fidel, sorry to burst your bubble, but the Chinese Communist party remains in power through coercion, force and fear. And as for taking millions out of poverty, they have done so through a slave labour force who still cannot earn enough to raise their standard of living to anything more than a hand to mouth subsistence.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-15 12:20

      Sorry, this rather a dead topic! But if you must, go read up UN reports on Chinese std of living in the past 10 years!

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