|The opening ceremony of the 17th Communist Party Congress in the Great Hall of the People|
China's Communist Party is meeting this week in Beijing. More than two thousand delegates are electing party leaders and deciding policies that will guide China for the next five years. The seventeenth party congress comes at a time of increasing social unrest in China.
The meeting opened on Monday and will end on Sunday. Party congresses are held every five years. Much of the discussion is held in secret.
The delegates are expected to elect President Hu Jintao to a second five-year term. The results of the party congress will intensify predictions about China's next leaders after Mister Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao retire in five years.
|President Hu Jintao|
In his opening speech on Monday, the president included among his goals a promise to fight corruption. Some political observers, however, noted that corruption can be especially difficult to fight in a one-party form of government. There are few checks and balances on local officials.
Other problems caused by twenty years of fast economic growth in China include pollution, high prices and disputes over land. Violent protests and riots have taken place in rural areas.
Officials heavily increased security in Beijing for the party congress. Human rights groups say several dissidents and other activists have been detained or questioned in recent weeks.
Last week, twelve thousand people signed an open letter demanding reforms and help for their problems. Activists say the leader of the group was detained.
Past congresses have resulted in major changes in the party.
For example, at the seventh party congress in nineteen forty-five, Mao Zedong's "thought" became the official thinking of the party. At the nineteen eighty-two meeting, Deng Xiaoping’s form of socialism started the economic reforms that continue to drive China’s growth.
The Communist Party has ruled China since nineteen forty-nine. That was when the People's Liberation Army defeated the Chinese Nationalists in a civil war. The Nationalists fled to Formosa, now called Taiwan.
In recent months tensions between China and Taiwan have increased following Taiwan's latest attempt to join the United Nations. China considers Taiwan a part of Chinese territory awaiting reunification – by force, if necessary.
In his speech Monday, President Hu warned Taiwan against declaring independence. But the statement differed from past speeches. It did not directly threaten the use of force to bring Taiwan under Chinese rule.
President Hu also called for negotiations on a peace agreement if Taiwan accepts the idea of "one China."
A Taiwanese spokesman said Taiwan will not talk with a government that suppresses Tibet, kills its own citizens and supports the military rulers in Burma. And President Chen Shui-bian said a peace treaty based on the "one China" idea would really be a surrender agreement.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.