"Efforts should be made to advocate things that are helpful to the prosperity of the country, the rejuvenation of the nation, the happiness of the people and the harmony of society," Hu, who is also general secretary of the communist party, said.
'Soft power'
He also called on China to improve what he called its "soft power" - using culture and political influence rather than military might - according to the People's Daily newspaper, the party mouthpiece.
Hu's speech comes after Beijing said it would investigate reports by foreign media of a cover-up of workers' deaths during construction of the main Olympic stadium.
Beijing has relaxed restrictions on foreign journalists in China in the run-up to the Games and has also suggested it may maintain the more relaxed rules after.
But human rights groups say Beijing has tightened control over the media since Hu took over as president in 2003.
And critics charge that China has sacrificed worker safety in pursuit of Olympic glory, with 100,000 accidental work deaths reported last year.