With China’s leadership meeting at the 16 th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing to formalize a transfer of power to a younger generation of officials, President Jiang Zemin has outlined his vision for China’s development over the next two decades and reaffirmed the importance of IT to the country’s economic development.

“We must give play to the important role of science and technology as the primary productive force and pay close attention to improving the quality and efficiency of economic growth by relying on scientific and technological progress and raising the qualities of labour force,” Jiang said in a speech Friday, quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Jiang, who is the party’s general secretary. said one of its main objectives should be to quadruple China’s 2000 GDP (gross domestic product), which official statistics put at 8.9 trillion renminbi (CDN$1.7 trillion), by 2020.

“The fundamental goal of economic development is to uplift the living standards and quality of life of the people,” he said.

IT plays an important role in Jiang’s development vision. He sees the IT industry leading China’s economic development in the coming years, offering high economic returns with relatively little drain on the country’s natural resources while creating less environmental pollution.

The party congress, which is held every five years, is important for Jiang, who is looking to leave his stamp on the party and its future direction. On Thursday, party delegates at the congress will officially elect a new central committee. The new central committee will then meet Friday to choose a new politburo and standing committee, which includes the post of general secretary.

Jiang is expected to step down from his post as general secretary during the current party congress and as president during a meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, to be held next year. Vice President Hu Jintao is widely seen as Jiang’s most likely successor in both positions.

However, Jiang is expected to continue to exercise considerable power from behind the scenes. One way this could happen would be for him to follow the example set by former leader Deng Xiaoping and retain his post as chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission, which oversees China’s armed forces.

Jiang was first elected as general secretary of the party and chairman of the Central Military Commission at the 14 th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1992 and was elected president by delegates at the first session of the 8 th National People’s Congress in 1993.