Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong attends the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China’s old guard begin formally making way for the new by issuing a warning.
On Thursday, Hu Jintao, China’s outgoing President opened the 18th National Party Congress by talking about corruption. The man who will be responsible for tackling corruption for the next 10 years is Xi Jinping.
By the end of the week-long congress, Xi will take the first of several official titles that will make him leader of the world’s second most powerful nation.
Hu, in his customary glasses, dark suit and red tie, warned rampant corruption could prove fatal to the Communist Party of China that has had near unquestionable sway over China for over six decades. Xi knows corruption, will be a hard task, not least because it would require him to tackle some senior party leaders.
"Nobody is above the law," Hu said in his speech to choreographed applause from more than 2,300 party delegates who had gathered at the Great Hall of the People to be part of a generational change of leadership in China.
Hu makes way for Xi, 59, as the next general secretary of the CPC at the end of the congress of the CPC next week. Early next year, Xi takes over the mantle of president as well.
The procedure behind Xi's elevation will remain a mystery to most. The second largest economy in the world, China remains under the rule of one Party, the CPC with over 82.6 million members in a country of 1.3 billion.
But the sheer responsibility of leading a country is clearly eating into the party's authority. Industrial unrest is on the rise. So are wages and that is corroding China's preeminence as the manufacturer of the world.
China's so-called socialist leaders are also eyeing ill-gotten riches as new scandals involving party leaders have recently shown.
Hu said, "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."
According to some counts, he mentioned corruption and efforts to fight it 16 times in his 100-minute speech.
Not much is known about Xi other than that his father was a senior communist leader who sided with Mao Zedong. But he fell out with Mao later. Naturally so did Xi, who then laboured several years in internal exile in a remote part of the country during Mao's, now reviled, Cultural Revolution.
But Xi scripted a gradual comeback. A comeback, he told a Chinese magazine in 2000 that was made of his pure want to do something for the people of China. Many commentators say that Xi's rise will be difficult given the continuing strength of two of his predecessors, Hu and Jiang Zemin, have within the party.