Beijing - The heavens opened here as Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered his opening address as the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) officially got underway today.
In Chinese culture rain is seen as a good omen and is associated with its national symbol the dragon.
Tiananmen Square became a giant parking lot for business and official vehicles bringing thousands of media workers and delegates to the Great Hall of the People.
President Xi took more than three hours to deliver his speech. It became too much for most of the more than 3 000 local and foreign journalists and halfway through the marathon address they peeled away to stand in snaking queues for copies of the speech in their own language.
In attendance were representatives from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
President Xi said the the CPC would develop China into a "great modern socialist country" by the middle of the 21st century. The CPC has drawn up a two-stage development plan for the period from 2020 to the middle of the century, Xi said, calling it the CPC's "strategic vision for developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era".
In the first stage from 2020 to 2035, the CPC will build on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernisation is basically realised, according to the plan. In the second stage from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, the CPC will, building on having basically achieved modernisation, work hard for a further 15 years and develop China into a great modern socialist country that is "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful."
The five-yearly CPC congress is China's most significant political meeting.
The congress will run until October 24 during which time a new Party Central Committee will be ushered in.
IOL and Xinhua