China's leaders displayed unity among the top ranks in two days of meetings with ministerial and provincial-level officials ahead of a once-a-decade political transition this fall that has been overshadowed by a scandal.
Vice President Xi Jinping, who is on track to take over from President Hu Jintao in the fall's party congress, indicated in a closing speech on Tuesday that there would be continuity in government policy after the handover.
The transition has been marred by a scandal involving Bo Xilai, a former political high-flier who was ousted earlier this year and is being investigated for unspecified wrongdoing. Bo was once considered a leading candidate for the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee when seven new members are expected to be picked at the party congress. Bo's downfall provided a rare public glimpse of infighting among China's rulers, who normally settle differences behind closed doors.
The Chinese government has been taking pains to ensure a smooth leadership transition and said earlier this month that preparations for the 18th party congress were under way and going well.
Xi echoed Hu's call on Monday to build on "socialism with Chinese characteristics" - a term that describes China's model of development, which for three decades has favored economic liberalization but not aggressive political reform - and urged officials to study Hu's speech.
"In contemporary China, only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China, benefit people and revitalize the nation," Xi said.
On Monday, Hu opened the meeting with a speech that appeared to be a bid to shape the way his legacy will be remembered by the participants, who included all the members of the Politburo Standing Committee, decision-making's inner sanctum.
Hu said his signature "scientific development" doctrine, which calls for helping the poorest Chinese and spending more on health care and education, has provided strong theoretical guidance for China's development. He said that over the past decade, despite sudden changes on the international front, China has made good use of important strategic opportunities.
He urged officials to "unite all forces that can be united."
During the congress, the party's leading members will install a new generation of leaders. China is run by a collective leadership, and many of the other seats in the Politburo Standing Committee are undecided, analysts and party insiders say.
Final decisions on the leadership lineup and key issues to be addressed at the congress should be hammered out in various sessions this summer, including informal meetings east of Beijing at the seaside Beidaihe resort.