Politburo signals end to congress prologue
Preparations finished for party's assembly
Communist Party leaders held probably the last Politburo meeting before the 17th party congress yesterday, sending a strong signal that preparations for the five-yearly meeting in mid-October have been completed.
The Politburo meeting, chaired by President Hu Jintao, closed with a statement highlighting achievements in the past year and stressing that the leadership had given special priority to tackling issues of public concern.
Yesterday's meeting was the second Politburo meeting in less than a month. About a fortnight ago, it met and agreed to include sustainable development and social harmony - two of Mr Hu's governing philosophies - into the party's constitution.
The statement issued by the Politburo yesterday did not mention any controversial issues such as the social security fund scandal, which brought down former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu, and rising inflation which soared to 6.2 per cent in August.
Instead, it described the past year as a fruitful year for the leadership, saying significant achievements had been made such as economic reforms, energy conservation and environmental protection, and also keeping Hong Kong and Macau prosperous.
In a veiled hint over speculation on imminent leadership changes, the statement said Politburo members 'supported one another' and 'together created a united and progressive environment'.
The statement ended with a list of policy priorities that needed to be adopted to improve and further cement the leadership's rule.
It stressed the importance of carrying on reforms of the country's economic growth pattern, which was still centred on growth of the gross domestic product and energy-intensive but heavily polluting industries.
Apart from pledges to increase spending on agricultural and rural areas, it vowed to step up efforts to cut energy consumption and pollution, both of which the government has failed to achieve in the past year.
It promised to tackle mounting social woes as a result of inadequate government spending and pay more attention to education, public health, employment and affordable housing, which have caused rampant social unrest.
The statement said the party would work harder to educate its rank and file in curbing corruption.
However, it said little in the area of political reform except that public participation in political affairs should be expanded 'in an orderly way so that the public can contribute more ... to the country'.
It did not elaborate on how this goal could be achieved.
Overseas media has speculated widely on the intensive jockeying of positions ahead of the congress, tipping the rise and fall of various leaders.
Mao Shoulong, an analyst with Beijing's Renmin University, said the Communist Party and the government had yet to ease public concerns over soaring food and property prices, environmental degradation and rampant abuses of the public interest.
Professor Mao said the Politburo meeting was part of the preparations aimed at creating a favourable environment for next month's congress. 'It showed that a consensus has been reached upon major issues.'
He added the consensus - achieved after a long consultation with retired leaders, party officials and experts - was closely related to the party's preoccupation with issues at the moment and those that will have an impact on the country in the next five years.
The party's Central Committee will hold a plenary session in the week leading up to the congress.