Beijing: Set to retire after a decade long stint, Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of advancing institutional reforms in China including in the political arena to open up the one party state, something he failed to implement due to stubborn resistance from within.
China must steadfastly advance institutional reforms in economic, political, cultural, social and other fields and stick to the opening-up policy, 70-year-old Wen said while speaking at a reception held in connection with the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the People`s Republic of China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
"There is still a long way to go" before China becomes a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious, he said at the reception attended among others by the President Hu Jintao, his likely successor Vice President, Xi Jinping and Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, who is tipped to succeed Wen.
Significantly all the nine Politburo Standing Committee members were present at the reception held for diplomats last night at the Great Hall of People, what could perhaps be their last such get together before they step down after the key Congress of the CPC on November 8 which would select the new set of leaders at all levels every 10 years.
The presence of Zhou Yongkang, the ninth member was seen as significant as he was regarded as supporter of disgraced Communist Party Leader, Bo Xilai.
Zhou holds the powerful portfolio of internal security and the present leadership headed by Hu apparently won his support in initiating the most stringent action against Bo 63, a prince ling leader who became famous with his pro-Maoist rhetoric highlighting growing rich-poor divide in the Communist country, blaming it on the economic reforms.
Bo was expelled from Party and ordered to face trial for various allegations ranging from sex, sleaze, corruption and attempt to cover the role of his wife Gu Kailai in the murder of a British businessman.
For his part Wen defended the economic reforms, initiated after the death of Mao in 1976 by his successor Deng Xiaoping.
"The Chinese economy has maintained fast growth; people`s livelihood has improved markedly; and China`s overall national strength and international influence have grown significantly.
Every Chinese has reason to take pride in these achievements," Wen said.
"While recognising achievements, we must always keep a cool head," he said adding that China should "promote socialist democracy."
The country is in an important period of strategic opportunities for development, he said, stressing that the power of reform and opening-up as well as the persevering spirit of the Chinese nation will lead China to a brighter future.
Wen spoke of political reforms few times in the past, enhancing his carefully cultivated image as a liberal.
But Hu held the powerful posts of President and Party General Secretary kept a steadied silence about any political reforms to expand the scope of the rigid one party system.
The 10-day November Congress to be attended by 2270 delegates would not only select the new leadership but also deliberate on future direction for the country in the light of fast slowing growth due to decline in export markets and the increasing divisions among rich and poor.
Wen said that the Congress will be an important meeting "for us to build on past achievements and open up new prospects for future development."
He stressed that "we will unswervingly follow the basic line of the Party and stay committed to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics," an ideological line advocated by Deng.
On foreign affairs, Wen said that China will pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.