General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao on Thursday said the country must unswervingly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a keynote report to the 18th Party Congress, laying out a blueprint for the country's development over the next decade.
Delivering the report to some 2,300 delegates, Hu highlighted how the CPC Central Committee had upheld and developed socialism with Chinese characteristics from a new historical starting point.
"Over the past 30-plus years of continuous reform and opening-up, we have held high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejected the old and rigid closed-door policy and any attempt to abandon socialism and take an erroneous path," he stressed.
Peng Zongchao, a professor with Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management, told the Global Times that the remarks underlined the Party's determination to continue on the path of reform and opening-up while rejecting both conservative and liberal extremes in choosing China's future path.
Recent years have seen heated debates over China's development models. While some conservatives advocated a return to China's more egalitarian past marked by a planned economy and ideological controls, some liberal influences have sought to duplicate the Western political model in China.
"We could hardly return to the old path nor duplicate foreign models regardless of our national conditions. It is a realistic choice to have a global vision while following a path that suits China's conditions," noted Peng.
Hu said that China will continue carrying out reform of the political structure, which has been regarded as a likely focal point of this congress.
Vowing to "make people's democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice," Hu said the CPC should give full play to the strength of the socialist political system and draw on the political achievements of other societies.
"However, we will never copy a Western political system," he stressed.
The leader also said the country would improve its system of socialist consultation democracy, seen as a highlight by political observers.
In order to maintain political and social stability, the country would introduce consultative democracy to expand public participation in public decision-making, said Peng.
This year, people in several cities have taken to the streets in protest against potential polluting projects.
Concerning the fight against corruption, Hu said it is a clear-cut and long-term political commitment for the Party.
"If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the Party, and even cause its collapse and the fall of the state," he said.
While asking leading Party officials to exercise strict self-discipline, he also called on them to strengthen supervision over their families and employees.
Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing Party chief, was expelled from the Party in September for severe disciplinary violations. Bo was found to have taken huge bribes, abused his power and covered up the murder case of Neil Heywood, concerning his wife.
On the economic front, Hu said China should accelerate the improvement of the socialist market economy and the transformation of its growth model.
"To make China's development far more balanced, coordinated and sustainable, we should double its GDP and per capita income from 2010 for both urban and rural residents (by 2020)," Hu said.
This is the first time that per capita income has been included in the country's 2020 blueprint for a moderately prosperous society.
Zhao Guangjun, a delegate from Guangdong Province, told the Global Times that the promised income increase was what the public was keen to hear.
However, Li Weisen, deputy dean of Fudan University's School of Economics, regarded both targets set in the report as "ambitious," given current economic conditions.
In the first three quarters of 2012, China's GDP growth slowed to 7.7 percent, with the third quarter's growth dropping to the lowest level since 2009.
Li told the Global Times that in order for these targets to be realized, the country must carry out reforms and strengthen its legal system to facilitate the development of the services sector.
Meanwhile, the Party also elevated the status of the Scientific Outlook on Development to the same position as Deng Xiaoping Theory as one of the theoretical guides for the Party's future.
The Scientific Outlook on Development was proposed by the 16th CPC Central Committee in 2003.
It came against the backdrop of rapid economic growth and a series of problems including excessive consumption of resources, serious environmental pollution and a widening income gap.
Hu's report to the congress was well-received by delegates, who also voiced their own thoughts.
"The economic path taken by the Party over the past 30 years has proven to be right. It's absolutely right to follow this path," Wang Dong, a private entrepreneur from Gansu, told the Global Times.
Liao Zefang, a lawyer from Jiangxi Province, told the Global Times that he hopes the country will attach equal importance to democracy and legal construction as it does to economic development after 2020.
In addition to setting out the road map for China's future development, the congress also paid tribute to the Party's late leaders.
At the beginning of the congress, delegates stood in silent tribute to former Chairman Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and several other late leaders.
During his speech, Hu underlined the endeavors made by the past three generations of central collective leadership led by Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.
He also said that together with the Scientific Outlook on Development, Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important concept of the Three Represents must be adhered to for the foreseeable future.
The congress will deliberate and adopt the amendment to the CPC Constitution.
It will also elect the Party's 18th Central Committee and Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Xinhua contributed to this story
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During the opening ceremony of the 18th CPC National Congress, attendants were requested to stand in silent tribute to late veteran revolutionaries and martyrs, including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun. (Source: CNTV.com)