iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, November 09, 2012
China, governed by one-party system since 1949, will carry out political reforms to allow more involvement of people in decision-making process but will not ape Western-style democracy, President Hu Jintao said on Thursday.

"We will never copy a Western political system," Hu said while addressing 2,270 delegates attending the 18th party Congress, that will end with a transition of power, inside the Great Hall of the People here.

The nationally televised speech in Chinese lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes and in it Hu, besides listing the achievements and making a note of the troubles, also called for reform.

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"We have overcome numerous difficulties and risks and achieved new successes in building a modern, prosperous society," Hu said.

"We must continue to make both active and prudent efforts to carry out reform of the political structure and make the people's democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice," he said.

A state-run newspaper published a survey Wednesday suggesting eight out of 10 Chinese in major cities want political reform, adding to mounting calls for change of some sort in how the corruption-ridden Communist Party runs China.

Hu, however, made it clear that China will not adopt a western model for governance.

"We should place high importance on systemic building, give full play to the strength of the socialist political system and draw on the political achievements of other societies. But we will never copy a Western political system," he said.

'Corruption could topple Communists'
Hu also issued a stern warning that corruption in the ruling Communist Party could prove "fatal" to its 63-year-long grip over the country.

"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," Hu, who will be stepping down as President and General Secretary of the CPC, said in his speech.

Call to become maritime power
What could be alarming to some of China's smaller neighbours was that Hu gave a call for the country to become a maritime power. "We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power," the outgoing President said.

Beijing is currently in the middle of a dispute with Tokyo over a Japanese-controlled group of islands in the East China Sea.

India should expect continuity
With respect to India, what is being expected when Xi takes over gradually in the next few months is more of the same: talks continue on disputed borders, more focus on trade and maybe more people-to-people exchange.

Diplomats here point out that change or handover of power in China is not something like AB Vajpayee making way for Manmohan Singh. It's more like Advani succeeding Vajpayee. Which basically means there is much more continuity in policies.

The Chinese ministers of commerce and defence visited India in August and September. They, too, had indicated that China was ready to engage more with India even if gradually.

The implicit appeal from the Chinese side to India was not to become part of any permutation that has the aim to contain China.