The Chinese Communist Party Congress -- that will undertake the once-in-a-decade leadership change -- opened in Beijing on Thursday with outgoing President Hu Jintao issuing a stark warning against corruption in the party ranks.
In his work report outlining the decade-long achievement of the party under his leadership, Hu said the Party must make unremitting efforts to combat corruption, promote integrity and stay vigilant against degeneration.
Hu said combating corruption and promoting political integrity, which is a major political issue of great concern to the people, is a clear-cut and long-term political commitment of the Party.
"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 warned in his 41-page keynote report to the Congress attended by 2,270 delegates chosen from all over country.
Hu said the CPC must maintain a tough position in cracking down on corruption at all times, conduct thorough investigations into major corruption cases and work hard to resolve problems of corruption that directly affect the people.
"All those who violate Party discipline and state laws, whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have, must be brought to justice without mercy," he said.
He asked leading officials of the Party to exercise strict self-discipline and strengthen supervision over their families and staff.
"Leading officials at all levels, especially high-ranking officials, must readily observe the code of conduct on clean governance and report all important matters," Hu said.
Hu also said that no one is allowed to place oneself above the Party organisation, apparently referring to disgraced Party leader Bo Xilai who faced a host of charges including sex, sleaze and corruption besides shielding his wife Gu Kailai from investigations into her role in the murder of Briton Neil Heywood.
The Party has also dismissed former railway minister Liu Zhijun who faced serious corruption charges.
The Congress is being held in the shadows of the Bo Xilai scandal as well as the declining growth rate of the economy which slid to 7.4 per cent from nearly about 12 per cent three years ago.
Scorching rumours of factional differences ahead of leadership changes during the run-up to the conference, several senior leaders of the party including former president and general secretary Jiang Zhamin attended the Party and lustily cheered Hu's speech.
The week-long Party will be announcing a new set of leaders on November 14.
The new leaders will formally take charge of their new posts from early next year.
Hu, along with Premier Wen and other leaders, was expected to step down after a decade long stint in power. As per the Party Constitution, the leaders retire after 10 years in office.
With hard-liner Bo Xilai out of the way, Party insiders say a smooth succession plan has been worked out under which Vice President Xi Jinping is to succeed Hu both as president and party general secretary.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang is to succeed Wen. The rest of the leadership, including the nine-member Standing Committee which virtually rules the country, 24-member Politburo and the 365-member Central Committee would be announced at the end of the Congress.
In his speech, Hu ruled out opening up China for western style democracy but at the same time stated that the party would continue to carry out reforms of the political structure.
"However, we will never copy a western political system," he said.
"We must continue to make both active and prudent efforts to carry out the reform of the political structure, and make people's democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice," he said.
The Party 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, Hu said.
Stressing on the unity of the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country and law-based governance, Hu said, "We should attach greater importance to improving the system of democracy and diversifying the forms of democracy to ensure that the people conduct democratic elections, decision-making, administration and oversight in accordance with the law".
On the economic front, Hu said efforts would be made to boost the domestic demand to reduce the dependence on exports which continue to fall in recent years.
"We must strive to remove major structural barriers to sustained and sound economic development, with a focus on improving the demand mix and the industrial structure, promoting balanced development between regions and advancing urbanisation," Hu said.
"We should firmly maintain the strategic focus of boosting domestic demand, speed up the establishment of a long-term mechanism for increasing consumer demand, unleash the potential of individual consumption, increase investment at a proper pace, and expand the domestic market," he said.
In the first three quarters of this year, China's retail sales grew 14.1 per cent year on year to US$ 2.37 trillion contributing to about 55 per cent of gross domestic product.
China should make the economy more demand-driven, promote the sound growth of strategic emerging industries and advanced manufacturing industries, speed up the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, he said.
He also stressed the development of next-generation information infrastructure and a modern IT industry, ensuring information security and promoting the application of information network technologies.
The country should also continue to implement the strategy for regional development and fully leverage the comparative advantages of different regions, he said.