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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hu Addresses 5-Year Party Congress

BEIJING -- Chinese leader Hu Jintao pledged to make Communist rule more inclusive and better spread the fruits of China's economic boom, in an address Monday to a party congress that offered a key test of his authority.

Hu also offered talks on a formal peace accord with Taiwan, but the vague proposal included preconditions previously unacceptable to the island, which quickly rejected it.

Shying away from the warlike rhetoric that often accompanies such occasions, Hu instead stressing Beijing's preference for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the 58-year conflict with Taiwan.

"We would like to make a solemn appeal: On the basis of the one-China principle, let us discuss a formal end to the state of hostility between the two sides, reach a peace agreement," Hu told the party and military elite gathered in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

Hu's speech is the most public event at the congress, which comes at the midway mark of his decade-long tenure as party chief and head of state.

The weeklong conclave's chief purpose is to reappoint Hu for a second five-year term as party general secretary. A key measure of Hu's influence will be how many of his political allies he can maneuver into top party jobs, including proteges expected to take over from him when he steps down in five years.

In his address, Hu outlined policies intended to make China more prosperous and stable by raising incomes and improving the party's hold on a fast-changing society.

While offering few specifics, Hu said Chinese citizens would have "more extensive democratic rights" by 2020, China's target year for establishing lasting economic security, even as the party retains its monopoly on political power.

"Contemporary China is going through a wide-ranging and deep transformation. This brings us unprecedented opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges," Hu told the more than 2,200 delegates gathered in the massive hall.

Broadcast live on nationwide television, the speech -- lasting more than two hours and 20 minutes -- was one of Hu's most important public addresses since taking over as party leader at the last congress, in 2002.

Reflecting Hu's cautious manner, it contained few initiatives and was vague on just how proposals for expanded democracy would be carried out.

Hu also promised to continue a buildup of China's military, but pledged to use the country's economic and diplomatic clout as a force for peace internationally.

"I think the secretary-general did very well with this speech," said Shen Ruixiang, a district party secretary from the thriving eastern province of Jiangsu.

"I'm sure he'll emerge from this congress with even more authority and prove an even better leader," Shen said.

Hu dwelled also on his signature policy, a push to redirect breakneck development by spreading the benefits of economic growth more evenly that goes by the rubric "the scientific outlook on development."

"There are still a considerable number of impoverished and low-income people in both urban and rural areas, and it has become more difficult to accommodate the interests of all sides."