Hu defends track record, calls for war on graft
Outgoing leader wants China to be global maritime power
BEIJING - Outgoing Chinese leader Hu Jintao defended his decade-long track record as one of "new historic successes" and urged China to continue its ascent as a global force by becoming a maritime power.
But in his last major address to the nation on Thursday, he also warned that China faces severe challenges at home and abroad.
Corruption, in particular, could prove fatal to the ruling Communist Party if left unchecked, he told delegates at the opening of the week-long 18th Party Congress to usher in a new leadership for the next 10 years.
Yet, China will never deviate from its socialist model and copy Western political systems to solve the problems it faces, he pledged.
Instead, Mr Hu, who will relinquish control to Vice-President Xi Jinping at the end of the five-yearly event, called for greater centralisation of power within the one- party state.
"The more complexities the party faces and the more arduous the tasks it undertakes, the more imperative it is for the party to strengthen its discipline and uphold centralised leadership," he told more than 2,000 handpicked delegates at the Great Hall of the People. Such dominance has allowed the 91-year-old party to rule for 63 years, with the last 10 in a "new stage of development", stressed Mr Hu.
His decade of rule saw the successful hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the World Expo in Shanghai two years later, he said. It also survived the 2003 Sars outbreak, the financial crisis and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, achievements he called "great victories". The phrase peppered his one- hour and 40-minute speech.
Mr Hu's report card includes creating better livelihoods, stronger social safety nets and technological leaps like high-speed trains and manned space flights.
More importantly, for a regime that styled itself as the guardian of China's resurgence, he praised the party's work in protecting the country's interests overseas.
This would alarm its neighbours, given Beijing's growing assertiveness in maritime territorial disputes recently. Mr Hu's clarion call for China - a land-based empire for centuries - to become a maritime power will unnerve countries like Japan and those in Asean, although it is a push which China has advocated for some time.
"Hu's statement is a clear message that China is unlikely to make any compromise in maritime disputes with neighbouring countries," said Singapore-based analyst Li Mingjiang.