The Chinese Communist Party marked its 83rd anniversary yesterday with President Hu Jintao stressing the need for a capable and clean ruling party.
Mr Hu, also party general secretary, highlighted the need for the Communist Party to strengthen its ability to rule in a speech to Politburo members on Tuesday.
The party also needed to fight corruption within its ranks and stay in touch with the grass roots, Mr Hu said in the speech reported by the People's Daily party mouthpiece.
Party sources said the speech set the tone for addressing political reforms at the fourth plenum of the 16th Party Congress to be held this autumn.
Expectations were high last year that Mr Hu would use the anniversary of the party's founding to introduce political reforms, including measures to promote democracy within the party such as strengthening the system of checks and balances.
But it was only in this year's speech that Mr Hu hinted at the reforms which are in the pipeline.
Shen Shiguang, a political science professor at the Shanghai Party School, said the reforms would focus on redefining the party's role in a changing society and overhauling some party institutions which had outlived their usefulness.
Professor Shen said they would address the contradictions between the party and the society at large, as well as conflicts facing the party itself, which Mr Hu vaguely referred to as 'the party's ability to rule the country'.
Mr Hu also said the Communist Party would learn lessons from successful ruling parties abroad to strengthen itself. The transformation of the British Labour Party to reposition itself to the centre was considered a good example of how a political party could adapt to changes in society, he said.
Since last September, party theoreticians and cadres in charge of party organisation have been studying problems which were handled poorly by the party and damaged its image as a result. However, analysts said any reforms were likely to fall short of expectations for democracy, and there were no signs the Communist Party was ready to undertake bolder experiments.
Meanwhile, the membership of the Communist Party grew to 68 million at the end of 2003, an increase of 1.29 million from the previous year, it was announced yesterday.
Last year, about 16 million people nationwide filed applications for party membership, up 5.9 per cent year on year, Xinhua quoted the party's Organisation Department as saying.
Nearly 8 million of the party's members are workers. Another 20 million are officials, managers and professionals, of which 948,000 come from the private sector.