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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 14:12 GMT
China opens watershed congress
Chinese leaders bow for a minutes silence to commemorate past revolutionaries
The meeting is expected to approve a new leadership
China's Communist Party has ended the first day of its most important congress in a decade after Party chief Jiang Zemin called on it to embrace the market and allow capitalists to formally join.

He addressed more than 2,000 delegates from across China in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where the week-long meeting is set to result in sweeping leadership changes.

But Mr Jiang stressed that at the same time, the Party should "never copy any models of the political system of the West", appearing to rule out any moves towards greater democracy.

Mr Jiang himself is expected to be replaced as head of the Party, but he gave no hint of those changes in his speech on Friday morning.

Key-note speech

In a rambling 68-page speech, Mr Jiang said it was time to welcome private entrepreneurs into the Party


Congress delegates (AP photo)
Communist Party rules
  • 66m members
  • Holds Congress every five years
  • 2,000 delegates meet for a week
  • Then new leadership "elected"

    See also:


  • "We should admit into the Party advanced elements of social strata who accept the Party's programme and constitution in order to increase the influence and rallying force of the Party in society at large," he said.

    Mr Jiang's idea is that the Party, which used to champion the working class, needs a broader base if it is to retain support in a country that has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.

    The Party leadership is also worried that some of those changes threaten social order. Millions of workers have been laid off as state-owned enterprises have been restructured, for example.

    Mr Jiang hopes his clumsily-named "three represents" theory, which calls for the Party to represent all that is best in modern China, will be inserted into the country's constitution over the course of the Congress.

    In his 90-minute work report, Mr Jiang also urged the pursuit of further market reforms and proposed boosting the economy by four times by 2020.

    "(Economic) Reform and opening up are ways to make China powerful," Mr Jiang told the delegates.

    Delegate in ethnic dress
    Delegates have gathered from all over China
    "We must move forward, or we will fall behind."

    But he nevertheless emphasised that the Party should remain central to China's development.

    "We must uphold leadership by the (Party) and consolidate and improve the state system," he said.

    Transition

    The new leadership will probably be announced on 15 November, one day after the Congress closes.

    The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing says that Mr Jiang's post as Party leader is almost certain to go to his vice-president, Hu Jintao, a relatively unknown quantity.

    If confirmed, Mr Hu is also likely to take over as president in the spring when Politburo members give up their government jobs.

    Our correspondent notes that Mr Hu and other incoming officials will be relatively young and inexperienced.

    It is believed that Mr Jiang will want to try and retain some control.

    There have been rumours that he will retain his post as chair of the influential military affairs committee, which commands China's 2.5 million-strong armed forces.

    Despite blanket security surrounding the secretive Congress, one apparent protest took place before the meeting opened.

    Minutes before the Congress began at least three women scattered leaflets outside the Great Hall of the People before being bundled into a police car.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Adam Brookes reports from Beijing
    "An uneasy transition of power is now underway"

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