China's Hu says Party survival rests on growth, stability

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China's ruling Communist Party must ensure economic growth and stability, President Hu Jintao said on Friday, using the party's 90th anniversary as a show of unity ahead of a leadership succession.

"Development is of paramount importance and stability is the paramount task," Hu told hand-picked party members inside Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People, in a speech carried live on state television.

"Without stability, nothing can be accomplished, and the achievements that we have made will be lost. All of the party's comrade's must take this message to heart, and they must also lead all the people to take this to heart," he said.

"Only by promoting both healthy and fast economic development can we secure a strong material foundation for the great revival of the Chinese nation."

The party has shown no sign of diluting its own vast powers before a big political shake-up late next year, when Hu will hand over power, most likely to Vice President Xi Jinping.

Xi gave a short introductory address before Hu took the stage, to congratulate model party members.

Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, did not attend the ceremony, possibly a sign of the 84-year-old's declining health. Hu, aged 68, is also beginning to show his age, despite the jet-black head of hair that all central leaders sport, thanks to dye.

China launched a wave of propaganda in the weeks leading up to the anniversary, producing slick films and decking out Beijing with banners lauding the progress the country has made since the 1949 revolution.

"We have every reason to be proud of what the party and the people have achieved," said Hu, who oversees the world's largest political party, with 80 million members. He added, however, that "we have no reason to be complacent. We must not and will never rest on our laurels."

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