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China's Communist Party Congress opens with a warning (+video)

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“I have no confidence in his anticorruption comments because he said nothing about institutional reform, nor about opening up the media and allowing freedom of speech” that might help unveil corruption, says Mr. Wen, the commentator based in Hong Kong.

“The elites know that anticorruption drives cannot be enforced unless there is political reform, and since they do not expect that, they know that anticorruption is just a slogan,” adds Yao Bo, writer of one of China’s most popular political blogs.

Though Hu called on the party to “make both active and prudent efforts to carry out reform of the political structure,” the language he used was similar to earlier exhortations that have come to naught, says Qian Gang, director of the China Media Project at Hong Kong University, who closely analyzes the texts of official speeches.

“People who have been expecting political reform in China will be disappointed by this speech,” says Mr. Qian. “There was nothing new, and there seem to be a lot of obstacles to reform” thrown up by powerful conservative factions within the Communist Party.

Hu clearly signaled that the party is not ready for any serious experiments in democracy, declaring that although “we do not follow the old rigid and closed path, nor do we take the evil way of changing flags and banners.”

“We will never copy a Western political system,” he added later.

China's ambitious economic goals

On the economic front, Hu set the ambitious goal of doubling China's per capita income by 2020, and reiterated the government’s intention of reorienting China’s growth policy away from reliance on exports and investment in giant projects, and toward household consumption.

He also repeated official calls for deeper reform of the financial system and of state-owned enterprises – reforms that foreign and domestic economists have been recommending for some time but which have yet to occur. In a hint that the government is prepared to make changes, Hu urged that “we should follow more closely the rules of the market and better play the role of the government.”

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