President and Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao visited Shanghai yesterday and welcomed the city back into the fold after a corruption scandal - saying it should set the pace for the whole country. The visit to Shanghai, on the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, was Mr Hu's first since the corruption scandal broke. Twenty-six officials - including the city's previous party secretary, Chen Liangyu - have been implicated in embezzlement from the city's pension fund; 18 have been sentenced. It is only Mr Hu's third known visit to Shanghai since he became president in 2003. The trip comes two weeks before the start of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress, at which Mr Hu will seek to consolidate his power. Mr Hu said Shanghai should 'continue to serve well as the pace- setter for the country's reform and opening'. He will appear today at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics, an event the government has embraced because it allows a concrete application of the theoretical concept of building a 'harmonious society'. State television showed Mr Hu shaking hands with Shanghai residents, followed closely by Shanghai party secretary Xi Jinping, who took over in March after the corruption scandal. Mr Xi is a rising political star who is likely to become a member of the party's Politburo at the close of the congress and might even join the top-level Politburo Standing Committee. State media yesterday sought to show a softer side of Mr Hu while he was in Shanghai. He hugged two children with mental disabilities and asked a young boy drawing a panda: 'Are you happy?' He also toured a training centre for people with mental disabilities and met Special Olympics participants. Looking relaxed and dressed casually, Mr Hu acted as referee for a tug of war.