Chinas outgoing President Hu Jintao warned that corruption threatened the ruling Communist Party and the state, promising political reform as he formally opened a party congress that will usher in a once-in-a-decade leadership change. More than 2,000 hand-picked delegates gathered at Beijings cavernous Great Hall of the People for the start of the week-long session, held against a backdrop of growing social unrest, public anger at graft and a yawning gap between rich and poor.
If we fail to handle this issue (corruption) 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 an opening speech.
Reform of the political structure is an important part of China's overall reform. 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.
But nobody expects a move towards full democracy and party spokesman Cai Mingzhao made clear on Wednesday that one-party rule was inviolate.
The party has expelled senior regional leader Bo Xilai and accused him of abusing his office, taking huge bribes and other crimes in a dramatic fall from power that has shaken the leadership transition.