China's road to opening up and modernisation would be long and difficult, President Xi Jinping said yesterday, but added that the country must move forward with reforms.
He even called on cadres to allow for a little dissent if necessary.
Xi galvanised the push for deepening reform when he chaired a symposium marking the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. He called for courage, warning a deadlock in China's progress would lead to the collapse of both the Communist Party and the nation.
"We should push ahead with reform and opening up without hesitation," Xi said at the symposium, which was attended by all members of the Politburo Standing Committee. "We will have many great struggles of new historic uniqueness along our path for progress."
Xi said cadres should have the political will to try new initiatives, and in remarks that signal that his massive anti-corruption campaign would continue, he said cadres should set aside their personal feelings and even hire people who had opposing views.
"Comrade Deng Xiaoping long opposed privileges and corruption. He was also strict with his relatives and people working around him," Xi said.
His remarks on reform were echoed in a commentary in People's Daily yesterday that said the country's decades-old economic reform would fail unless fairness and justice in society were part of the package.
Observers took the comments to mean that Xi was positioning himself as a leader who would uphold the legacy of Deng, whose reform and opening-up initiatives enabled the country to embark on the path of rapid economic development.
"Xi has clearly declared that he is going to introduce transformational reforms with the determination, boldness and selflessness that will be of significance in terms of scale and impact, comparable to what Deng delivered - way above what [predecessors] Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao attempted," said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in Britain.
Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney, said: "If Xi can convince the party and the public that he is the holder of this legacy, it will be a big political success."
Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator, said Xi had to utilise the reform agenda to get party members' backing, especially as his anti-corruption campaign had triggered a backlash caused by the downfall of some top cadres.