China’s top communists underlined the growing authority of President Hu Jintao On Wednesday by calling on party cadres to focus more on his doctrine of “building a harmonious society”.
A communiqué issued at the close of an annual meeting of the 350-member central committee made no mention of the toppling of a rival of Mr Hu’s for alleged corruption but left no doubt about the party chief’s increased ideological clout.
“While keeping economic construction as the centre, [we] must elevate the building of a socialist harmonious society to a more prominent position,” the communiqué said.
Mr Hu has stressed social harmony to differentiate his policies from those of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and to address issues, such as income inequality, that have fuelled public dissatisfaction with the party.
The central committee said the doctrine meant the adoption of a number of goals to be achieved by 2020, including a “better socialist democratic system”, a “turning around of the trend to greater regional inequality” and “clear environmental improvement”.
Mr Hu’s “harmonious society” doctrine is more a change of emphasis than a break from the approach taken by Mr Jiang. While Mr Hu has made moves to boost incomes in the countryside, for example, they fall short of the kind of action needed to reduce a yawning urban-rural wealth gap.
But the communiqué leaves no doubt about the authority enjoyed by Mr Hu, who stunned political circles last month by toppling Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai party secretary, over alleged abuses of the city’s welfare funds. Mr Chen, a close associate of Mr Jiang, was the most senior party leader to be sacked in a decade, and the move has been seen as a demonstration of Mr Hu’s growing dominance over the party.
But the communiqué took pains to pay tribute to Mr Jiang, with repeated references to the “three represents”, the tagline used by the former president for his policy of widening the party’s political base.
While the “harmonious society” appears to strike more of a chord with the public than the poorly understood “three represents”, it also emphasises the importance of maintaining the party’s grip.
The communiqué pointed to the need for promotion of “common ideals and moral standards” but made clear that they must be kept within a socialist “core value system”.
The central committee plenum was the last before next year’s national party congress, at which Mr Hu is expected to consolidate his power by presiding over the retirement of other leaders considered close to Mr Jiang.