Alienation from the people poses the greatest risk to the Communist Party of China (CPC), while corruption will cost the Party the support of the people, Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said on Friday.
Addressing a celebratory meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to mark the 90th founding anniversary of what is now the world's largest political party, Hu said that all of the Party's achievements over the past nine decades had been made together with the people.
"We will never forget that the people are the real heroes," Hu told the 6,000-strong celebration, where more than 250 Party members and workers and 500 CPC organizations were honored for their outstanding contribution to society, including Sun Jiadong, the lead designer of China's lunar exploration program.
Hu summarized the experience and achievements of the Party since it has grown from just 53 members in 1921 to more than 80 million today.
Hu urged all Party members to bear in mind that maintaining close ties with the people is the CPC's biggest political asset.
At a time of "profound changes" in global, national and intra-Party conditions, Hu said the whole Party is confronted with the growing dangers of lacking drive, incompetence, being divorced from the people, lacking initiative, and corruption.
"It has thus become even more important and urgent than ever before for the Party to police itself and impose strict discipline on its members," he said.
Hu emphasized that China will continue to carry out reform and opening up, remain committed to pursuing scientific development, and enhance socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Alienation from the people is the greatest challenge to the Party since it gained political power, he said.
Therefore, the Party must listen to the people's views, truthfully reflect their wishes, help alleviate their hardships, and protect their economic, political, cultural, and social rights and interests in accordance with the law.
"The people will care about and feel close to the Party only when the Party feels the same toward them," he said to applause.
The Party will continue to work hard to ensure and improve the people's well-being, and work to build a harmonious socialist society, Hu said.
He said the growth of the Party over the past 90 years showed that cracking down hard on and effectively preventing corruption is crucial in gaining popular support for the Party and ensuring its very survival.
"The Party is soberly aware of the gravity and danger of corruption that have emerged under the conditions of the Party being long in power," Hu said. "If not effectively curbed, corruption will cost the Party the trust and support of the people."
Last year, Chinese discipline inspection commissions investigated 139,621 corruption-related cases, with a total of 146,517 people given disciplinary punishments and 5,373 transferred to judicial agencies for criminal proceedings, Wu Yuliang, deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said late last month.
Hu urged CPC members to bear in mind that all people are equal before the law and that no exception should be made in enforcing institutional safeguards.
Xie Chuntao, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said that it is important to have mechanisms in place to ensure all Party members behave in accordance with the law.
Hu pledged that China will continue to vigorously promote the development of socialist democracy.
He said democracy has always been a goal pursued by the CPC and that without democracy there can be no socialism or socialist modernization.
As the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics moves forward, so should the cause of building China's socialist democracy, Hu said, citing efforts to ensure that the people can participate in democratic elections, decision-making, administration and oversight in accordance with the law.
"We have every reason to be proud of what the Party and the people have achieved, but we have no reason to be complacent," Hu said. "We must not and will never rest on our laurels."
"As a political force, so far it has been very pragmatic and endured," Kerry Brown, a senior fellow at London-based Chatham House, told China Daily.
"But the next decade is going to be a challenging one. The CPC may need to make far deeper changes than it has ever done before to preserve its achievements."