STRESSING the need to promote socialist democracy, the head of China's main consultative body has vowed to seek a greater political role for the people in state affairs - an arena presently dominated by the ruling Communist Party. Speaking at the closing of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference yesterday, Li Ruihuan said democracy was inevitable as the nation advanced. He also spoke at length on the ''objective necessity'' of promoting socialist democratic changes in an orderly manner. ''Without democracy, it would be impossible to bring into full play the enthusiasm of the people. Without democracy, there would be no socialism, or socialist modernisation,'' said Mr Li, who is also a Politburo Standing Committee member. But the former Tianjin mayor was quick to stress that the development of democracy would be ''limited'' by social, economic, political and cultural conditions. ''The development of democracy cannot separate itself from reality,'' he said. ''To talk about democracy without consideration to the specific circumstances will adversely affect the country's economic growth and its social stability instead of advancing democracy. Democracy is bound to develop along with the advance of society.'' Mr Li said socialist democracy was a ''real possibility'' following deepened reform and improvements in livelihood and education. The party leader said the essence of socialist democracy was that the people were the ''masters''. He told the 1,762 deputies at the Great Hall of the People: ''We are to establish, step by step, a fully-fledged legal system so as to ensure democracy through institutions and legislation, and to make sure the institutions and laws will not be subject to the changes of leadership or the shift in views or focus of the leaders.'' The party leader stressed, however, that aspects of the present political structure - in particular the leadership of the Communist Party - must be adhered to. The conference, although ridiculed by cynics as a ''political vase'', is the major organ for ''political consultation'' and ''democratic supervision'' over the Government. An amendment to the conference's constitution adopted yesterday has widened its focus to include a more active role in state affairs. Mr Li backed the politburo's 20-character dictum on the need to balance growth, reform and stability and urged deputies to make greater efforts to facilitate the year's changes. He also predicted some turbulence during the transition from the old structure to the new. In addition, he said Deng Xiaoping Thought would remain the ''guiding principle'' for socialism in China, describing the patriarch's latest collection of works as ''a powerful ideological weapon''.