China's 18th National Party Congress
Delegates attend the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has officially begun at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the capital city of the Communist nation.   

During the 90-minute speech, outgoing President Hu Jintao stressed the need for reforms, a broad-based approach towards democracy and the challenges and risks the nation faces on the path of development.

He cited the widening divide among the rich and the poor, the imbalances among the burgeoning cities and the struggling countryside. Hu also stressed the need to curb personal greed and called for better discipline.

"Nobody is above the law," said Hu during in an apparent reference to the recent corruption scandals involving the top leaders of the party.

 "If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state."

Seven of the present nine-member standing committee of the politburo are expected to step down leaving Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang who are slated to become the party chief and deputy chief. Xi will take over as the party chief replacing President Hu and will take over as the president of the nation at the annual meeting of parliament in March 2013. Li is expected to become the premier replacing the current prime minister Wen Jiabao.

According to the party central committee statistics, women's representation at the 18th congress has increased marginally. A total of 521, which is 23 percent of the 2,270 delegates, are women against the 17th party congress held in 2007 which had 20 percent women representatives.

Security has been tightened in and around Beijing, especially at the Great Hall of the People where the week-long gathering is taking place and in nearby Tiananmen Square, the scene of the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

At the Great Hall, delegates observed a moment's silence to remember Mao Zedong and other revolutionary leaders after the national anthem. A golden hammer and sickle adorned the wall as the leaders began the party gathering that takes place every five years.

Scroll through the pictures to have a glimpse of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China:  

Delegates attend the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Delegates attend the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.Reuters
Chinese President Hu delivers speech during opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
Chinese President Hu delivers speech during opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
A general view showing delegates attend opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at Great Hall of People in Beijing.
A general view showing delegates attend opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at Great Hall of People in Beijing.Reuters
China's President Hu and aide help former President Jiang to stand up at opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
China's President Hu and aide help former President Jiang to stand up at opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
China's President Hu, former President Jiang and Premier Wen stand at the beginning of the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
China's President Hu, former President Jiang and Premier Wen stand at the beginning of the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
A general view shows delegates attending the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
A general view shows delegates attending the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
China's President Hu walks past China's Vice President Xi to deliver his speech at the beginning of the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
China's President Hu walks past China's Vice President Xi to deliver his speech at the beginning of the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.Reuters
Delegates walk through a hall inside Great Hall of People after morning session of opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
Delegates walk through a hall inside Great Hall of People after morning session of opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
Hotel guides pose for a photo in front of the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing.
Hotel guides pose for a photo in front of the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing.Reuters
Paramilitary policemen patrol in front of a giant portrait of former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square near the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
Paramilitary policemen patrol in front of a giant portrait of former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square near the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
Delegates walks past police officers riding motorised vehicles as they leave the Great Hall of the People after the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Delegates walks past police officers riding motorised vehicles as they leave the Great Hall of the People after the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.Reuters
Tibetan delegates pose for group photo in front of Great Hall of People, venue of 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China in Beijing.
Tibetan delegates pose for group photo in front of Great Hall of People, venue of 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
Delegates sit at stage before opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China at Great Hall of People in Beijing.
Delegates sit at stage before opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China at Great Hall of People in Beijing.Reuters
Hotel guides pose for photo with paramilitary policeman standing guard on Tiananmen Square near the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.
Hotel guides pose for photo with paramilitary policeman standing guard on Tiananmen Square near the Great Hall of the People, the venue of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.Reuters
Fudan University's students toss their caps into the air to mark the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Shanghai.
Fudan University's students toss their caps into the air to mark the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Shanghai.Reuters
Fudan University's students form the Chinese Communist Party emblem, a hammer and sickle, to mark the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai.
Fudan University's students form the Chinese Communist Party emblem, a hammer and sickle, to mark the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai.Reuters