When taking over the helm of the Communist Party last November, Hu Jintao pledged to unswervingly and persistently push ahead with China's process of reform. As he marks National Day today, the president may well have reflected on the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. Any new leadership seeking to push through a reform programme can expect to come up against deep-rooted fears of change. The process will therefore take time and is likely to proceed at a step-by-step pace. The new leaders have also needed time to consolidate their power, and have had to deal with some major distractions, from the invasion of Iraq to the Sars crisis. They have had to learn fast. Credit can be claimed for China's growing emergence on the world stage. Whether acting as a broker for the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme or helping lead developing nations at the World Trade Organisation talks, China has played an increasingly important role. At the same time, Mr Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have gone from being little-known technocrats to established international figures. But the biggest challenges lie at home. Economic growth would seem to be assured - despite the impact of Sars. But the government faces international pressure to revalue the yuan, an influx of hot money and what looks to be a property bubble. It has already adopted some relaxation of capital controls to help ease the problem. But further reforms cannot be rushed. The priority must be to take urgent action to clean up the banking sector and sort out the threat to the system posed by risky lending practices and the resulting bad debt. The broader problems created by the move away from a planned economy call for action on a number of fronts. Private entrepreneurs will become increasingly important as more state-owned enterprises close. Plans to give private property legal protection are welcome. But more needs to be done to provide clear rights and responsibilities for business people and to help integrate them with the establishment. Ensuring a more equal distribution of wealth, as the economy grows, is another vexing problem. Here, we have seen a wide range of measures introduced, including greater investment in the poorer provinces, relieving long-suffering farmers from the burden of illegal fees and making life easier for migrant workers. But large-scale reform of the health system, proper protection for labour and the provision of an adequate social safety net must be implemented if stability is to be maintained. On political reform, there have been tentative changes to the legal system to complement experiments with direct village elections. Allowing party members to choose their leaders is also being considered. But more fundamental changes that would improve outlets for public grievances are needed. The new leaders have established their credentials. It is now time to show just how persistent and unswerving the reforms will be.