Vowing to press ahead with economic reforms, President Hu Jintao on Monday said it was the only way to develop socialism with "Chinese characteristics" and pledged to deepen "political restructuring" as well as balance urban and rural development.
"To stop or reverse reform and opening up would only lead to a blind alley," the 64-year old party boss told China's elite leadership in his opening speech at the Communist Party of China's 17th National Congress at the Great Hall of the People as he eloquently defended reforms.
Hu said the orientation and path of reform and opening up were "entirely correct" and their merits and achievements could never be negated but cautioned that as a "great new revolution", reform and opening up were "not to be plain sailing or be accomplished overnight".
"Facts have incontrovertibly proved that the decision to begin reform and opening up is vital to the destiny of contemporary China and that reform and opening are the only way of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics," said Hu who is all set to retain his current job at the Congress which will also choose the next generation leaderhip at the end of its seven-day conclave.
Reflecting the Chinese leadership's concern over the widening poor-rich gap, Hu said while a relatively comfortable standard of living had been achieved for the people as a whole, the trend of a growing gap in income distribution had not been thoroughly reversed.
"..There are still a considerable number of impoverished and low-income people in both urban and rural areas, and it has become more difficult to accommodate the interests of all sides," he said.