Beijing (AsiaNews) The 16th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) concluded its plenary session or plenum on a low key note today. The four-day meeting of the 350-strong body listened to the party's general secretary Hu Jintao and looked at ways to "build a more harmonious society", this in a country beset by contradictions induced by unbridled economic development and rampant corruption. The plenum was held in camera and the only details about what went on behind closed doors are in its final communiqué reported by the Xinhua news agency.
In the press release party leaders do acknowledge that in China there "are quite many contradictions and issues that impair social harmony" but goes on to name pledges for the future.
"The party," Xinhua reports, "will in the next 15 years commit itself to improving democratic legal system and human rights protection, narrowing wealth gap, increasing employment, improving public service of the government, promoting people's moral standards, securing public order and protecting the environment [sic]."
Whilst economic growth will remain a priority, the party stressed the importance of shared cultural and ethnical values that reward and disgrace. The recent sacking of top party officials like Shanghai's party secretary Chen Liangyu, who is accused of corruption, probably explains the decision to adopt some minimum ethical standards.
The communiqué calls on party members to "consolidate [its] ideological and ethical foundation" and urges greater efforts to improve anti-corruption mechanisms and enhance supervision over top officials and organisations. A "sound ethos within the party should be cultivated to bring along [a] healthy ethos among the general public and government officials, so as to create harmonious relations between the party and the masses," the statement said.
For years, the top party brass condemned corruption whilst failing to stop it. This, in the meantime, has led to rising social unrest as a result of unscrupulous local party officials. Last year alone, the total number of incidents topped 87,000.
For plenum members though, despite the problems, the Communist Party remains the leading institution and the building of a harmonious society is a "strategic task" under the guidance of Marxism, Leninism, and the thought of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.
After the self-congratulatory part, the communiqué announced that the next party congress will "be held in the second half of 2007", probably in October.
Unofficial sources said that Hu Jintao named his chief political rival Zeng Qinghong to lay the groundwork for next year's crucial Communist Party congress. Zeng, a protégé of former President and party boss Jiang Zemin, rose through the ranks of the Shanghai Gang, an influential group of Communist leaders and business executives.
However for some, the choice is another sign of Hu's growing confidence. The Shanghai Gang, which had hitherto wielded considerable power, is now suffering the consequences of the fall from grace of the city's party chief, Chen Liangyu.
For others, the decision to appoint Zeng is an attempt to enlist him to share power so that both could benefit. In so doing they would adhere to a maxim attributed to Deng Xiaoping: "United we win together; divided we fall together."