Seventy Communist parties from 50 countries have been meeting in Shenzhen, China, this week to mark 'The Historical Contribution of Karl Marx and the Contemporary Significance of Marxism'.

Launching the conference, International Minister Song Tao said the event 'demonstrates the firm commitment of the Communist Party of China to maintain and develop the scientific theory of Karl Marx in the 21st century'.

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'Marxism helps answer the questions posed by a new era of development in China and the modern world', Mr Song declared, insisting that Marxism had broken new ground in his country.

'Our "socialism with Chinese characteristics" is people centred, it is a theory and a practice for the people's self-emancipation', he argued, 'It is the people who will judge whether the CPC is doing a good job, unleashing their creativity and making them the masters of the nation'.

International Minister Song pointed to Shenzhen as the 'epitome' of the application of Marxism to China's conditions.

A small fishing village forty years ago over the water from Hong Kong, it is today a technologically advanced city of more than 12m residents and the hi-tech capital of the country.

Hundreds of foreign and Chinese companies - many of the latter state-owned or cooperatives - are located in the area amid the many parks, tree-lined four-lane avenues and state-of-the-art overhead railways.

'Shenzhen pioneered the "Reform and Opening Up" strategy of Deng Xiaoping in 1978', Mr Song concluded, 'which is the necessary road for China in the primary stage of building a socialist society'.

Other speakers in the opening session, which began with a rendition of 'The Internationale', represented Communist parties from Vietnam, Cuba, Russia, South Africa and the Czech Republic.