China’s Premier Wen Jiabao called on Saturday for the Chinese to unite in support of the Communist Party and outgoing President Hu Jintao, ahead of a pivotal congress to usher in new leadership.
The announcement comes amid a damaging political scandal involving Bo Xilai, a senior party boss who is to stand trial for a litany of crimes including abuse of power and improper sexual relations.
“Let us rally more closely around the CPC central committee with comrade Hu Jintao as the general secretary,” said Wen in a speech two days before the 63rd anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China.
Hu will handover power as head of the party to Vice President Xi Jinping during the congress on November 8, but will remain the country’s president until next March.
The congress will allow the party to “open new perspectives on development,” Wen told an audience of some 2,000 diplomats and officials gathered at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.
Wen, who will also give up his position as head of government next spring – most likely to Vice Premier Li Keqiang – recapped his party’s achievements in expanding economic growth but said more needed to be done.
“We have followed the overall guideline of making progress while ensuring stability, strengthened and improved macro regulations and given greater priority to stabilising growth,” he said.
But he added: “While recognising achievements, we must always keep a cool head. Our country is still at the primary stage of socialism and productivity is not high.”
He also touched upon foreign policy amid an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan over remote islands in the East China Sea, which has seen relations between the two countries plummet.
“We will firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wen vowed.