Chinese President Hu Jintao delivers his address at the opening of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 8 2012.
Chinese President Hu Jintao delivers his address at the opening of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 8 2012. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

China's president Hu Jintao opened the nation's 18th Party Congress this morning with a speech that lasted a staggering 101 minutes. The title says it all: “Firmly March on the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Complete the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in all Respects.”

It led Marketplace's China bureau chief Rob Schmitz to quip, "[Hu's] been known as one of China's most boring leaders, and he certainly went out that way."

But Schmitz says Hu did address some of the issues that have experts on China torn about the country's future. Corruption is one of them. "Corruption could cause the collapse of the party and the fall of country," Hu said in his speech.

Another is an economic tight-wire act that Hu's successor Xi Jinping will have to negotiate carefully. "China has to reform its economy and take money from its enormous state sector and put that into the private sector," says Schmitz. "And that's not going to be popular with what are powerful vested interests in China."

So does this mean China will loosen restrictions on citizens as well as markets? It seems doubtful, if the careful scripting around the Party Congress is any indication. Schmitz took a cab that had no hand cranks for the window. When he asked the cabbie why he'd removed the cranks, he replied, “I don’t know the specifics. I only follow orders. They asked me to take them off, so I took them off. I do what they tell me…I don’t ask why.”

Schmitz says the government is worried its people will write subversive messages on small pieces of paper, stick them into ping-pong balls, and toss them out the windows of cabs. So if that was the plan, consider it thwarted.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz