Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for unity in the ruling Communist Party and unflinching backing for economic reforms in the face of “unprecedented challenges” as Beijing struggles with a scandal-hit leadership transition and economic slowdown.
Hu’s speech to dozens of top officials dominated the front pages of China’s major state-run newspapers on Tuesday, a sign of its importance in setting the themes for a party congress late this year that will install a new generation of leaders.
Using jargon-laden political slogans, Hu laid out two themes likely to dominate the congress — a call for conformity after the contentious dismissal of one-time leadership contender Bo Xilai and a defense of Hu’s efforts to shift the economy to more balanced, equitable growth driven by domestic consumption.
“We must confront unprecedented opportunities and confront unprecedented challenges,” Hu said in the speech given on Monday. “We must unwaveringly take the correct course pioneered by the party and the people over a long period, and neither flinch in the face of any dangers nor be distracted by any interference.”
Hu did not mention the downfall of Bo, the ambitious party chief of Chongqing in southwest China who was ousted in March over a scandal centered on accusations that Bo’s wife killed a British businessman. Nor did Hu lay out new policies.
But Hu, 69, made clear that he saw keeping up economic growth and sharing more gains from that growth with workers and farmers — a theme he has labeled his “scientific outlook on development” — as his major political legacy and a policy that his successors must also follow.
“The theme of a scientific outlook on development, featuring an accelerated transformation of the mode of economic development, is a strategic choice that bears on our country’s whole pattern of development,” the president said.
The meeting where Hu spoke was also a show of unity by the Communist Party elite, bringing together central leaders and many provincial-level officials who are candidates for promotion into the next generation of central leaders. The meeting was chaired by Hu’s likely successor, Vice President Xi Jinping.
China’s economy slowed for a sixth successive quarter to 7.6 percent in the April-June period, its slackest pace in more than three years and a rate only just above the government’s 7.5 percent target for 2012.
The ousted Bo cast himself as a populist with his own recipe for shoring up growth while reversing China’s yawning social inequalities. Premier Wen Jiabao accused Bo of betraying the policies of market-led economic reform.
“Only reform and opening up can develop China,” Hu told officials.
In the coming weeks, China’s top leaders, including retired party elders, are likely to gather for informal meetings that will seek agreement on the next leadership lineup and policy themes that will dominate the 18th Party Congress.
A political analyst in Jakarta said that Indonesia needed a strong China in terms of economic growth to offset a possible decline in demand from the US and European markets for the country’s commodities.
“The region and Indonesia need a united and stable China,” said Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations expert at the Indonesian Defense University (Unhan).
China is Indonesia’s largest trade partner, excluding oil and gas, taking over the top spot from Japan. In the first five months this year, non-oil and gas trade volume between the two countries reached $20.8 billion, an increase of 25 percent from $16.7 billion the same period a year ago.
Indonesia’s non-oil and gas exports to China rose to $8.9 billion from January to May, up 27 percent from $7 billion. China had $11.9 billion of non-oil and gas exports to Indonesia in the first five months this year, up 23 percent from $9.7 billion in the same period last year.