A historical and overall view should be taken while passing judgment on Chairman Mao Zedong, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday.
It has been the Chinese people's greatest dream for centuries to achieve national rejuvenation, and Mao led the people to achieve national independence and defeat the invaders, Xi said at a symposium in Beijing to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth.
Mao died on Sept 9, 1976.
Mao made serious mistakes during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), and the mistakes were not only because of personal reasons, but also due to complex international and domestic factors, which should be judged from an overall and historical perspective, Xi said.
Building socialism in China was an unprecedented endeavour in Mao's era, and the Chinese leaders then, with no examples to follow, had to blaze trails all on their own, Xi said.
Leaders should neither be worshipped like gods, nor be denied completely due to their mistakes, and the mistakes should become a valuable historical lesson for the Party, Xi stressed.
Calling Mao "a great patriot and national hero", Xi said, "Mao changed the face of the nation and led the Chinese people to a new destiny".
Xi mentioned in his speech that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping used to say that the banner of Mao Zedong Thought could not be cast away, or the Party's glorious history will be challenged.
Before the symposium, the seven members of the Party's top-ruling body visited Mao's mausoleum in Tian'anmen Square, bowing three times in front of Mao's seated statue and paying a visit to the body of Mao.
In an article published on Monday, People's Daily said that Mao Zedong Thought serves as a lighthouse that directs the people toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The article was authored by Leng Rong, head of the CPC Central Committee's Party Literature Research Office.
To commemorate Mao's birthday, a 50-episode TV series started simultaneously on China Central Television and Hunan Satellite TV on Wednesday evening.
Huang Li, a Beijing native who visited Mao's mausoleum on Thursday, said that Mao rid China of the tag of "sick man of East Asia" and "laid a very good industrial foundation for the economy today".
Gao Xiang, secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Mao's historical contributions should not be denied because of his mistakes.
Ai Silin, president of Tsinghua University's School of Marxism, said that commemorating Mao's birthday is important for the Party's ongoing "mass-line" campaign since Mao made many comments and gave instructions on how to get close to the people.
Mao had said that getting close to the people and serving the people is what made the Communist Party of China different from other parties, and the principle remains unchanged today, he said.
In June, the CPC Central Committee launched the yearlong "mass-line" campaign to bridge gaps between government officials and the public, during which the authorities pledged to clean up undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.
The Party's top anti-graft agency said in November that it had cut conference expenditure for the first eight months of this year by 84 per cent and reception expenses by half amid efforts to improve work style and fight corruption.
It said in a circular released on Monday that government officials must shun high-end clubs where they might enjoy themselves with dining and other entertainment, with some even engaging in power-for-money or power-for-sex deals.