BEIJING -- Marking the 81st anniversary of its Communist Party, China exhorted its people and party faithful Monday to follow what it called President Jiang Zemin's progressive approach to reform -- a doctrine that has pushed the country toward a world it once shunned.
The anniversary comes just weeks before a party meeting expected to select the next generation of leaders that will run China.
The main party newspaper, People's Daily, ran an editorial Monday calling on 64 million party members to "study assiduously Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin's instructions on party-building, and to work still harder to carry on the ongoing reform and open the country still wider to the outside world."
"The party has taken steps to reform and strengthen its construction," the editorial said. "To all party members, we say, 'Congratulations."'
The anniversary comes exactly a year after Jiang, who is both president and party general secretary, used the party's 80th birthday celebration to invite entrepreneurs to join -- something that would have been unheard of in the days of Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China.
But the party is spending significant time and energy trying to chart its place in a changing China -- one that, in the past year, joined the World Trade Organization as part of what the leadership variously calls a "socialist market economy" and "socialism with Chinese characteristics."
Big things are expected at this year's party congress, scheduled for September. Jiang is expected to hand over his post as party leader to Vice President Hu Jintao. Premier Zhu Rongji also is expected to retire.
"It's a very important meeting that takes place in the middle of a dynamically changing international situation," said the People's Daily editorial.