Li sets out strategic mission for next 5 years

Updated: 2013-03-18 03:06

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)

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ROAD AHEAD | Premier says government will focus on growth, welfare and social justice; he vows to press ahead with reforms, ensure the rule of law and boost national prosperity.

Li sets out strategic mission for next 5 years

Li Keqiang makes his media debut as premier on Sunday in Beijing. Wu Zhiyi / China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang outlined the top three tasks of the new government over the next five years, and vowed to push forward reforms and the rule of law, at his media debut in his new position on Sunday.

Maintaining economic growth, improving people's livelihood and safeguarding social justice are the government's three main tasks, Li said.

The news conference followed the leadership transition at the annual legislative session that closed on Sunday.

The vast country of China has a lot of tasks to fulfill, Li said. "The most important one, I think, is to facilitate the continuous growth of the economy," he said.

Li's quotes

"However deep the water may be, we will wade into it because we have no alternative."

On comprehensive reforms

"We need to prevent the urban malaise and avoid the situation in which high-rises co-exist with shantytowns."

On urbanization

"We need to leave to the market and society what they can do well. The government needs to manage well the matters that fall under its supervision."

On government reforms

"I feel upset (about the smog that recently shrouded Beijing and large parts of the country's eastern areas). To tackle the problems, we need an iron fist, firm resolution and tough measures."

On environment

"Pursuing government office and making money have been ‘two separate paths' since ancient times."

On clean governance

"Bones may be broken but not the sinews, because we are fellow compatriots. Between us there is no knot that cannot be undone."

On cross-Straits ties

"I don't believe conflicts between big powers are inevitable. Shared interests often override their disputes."

On ties with the US

China may face complex economic conditions, he said, noting that the government must overcome adversity, handle change calmly, facilitate economic growth, curb inflation and prevent major fluctuations of the economy.

To reach the target of doubling 2010 per capita GDP and personal income by 2020, China must register annual average economic growth of 7.5 percent over the next few years, he said.

The second task, Li said, is to improve people's livelihood by raising the income of urban and rural residents, in particular for those in impoverished areas, and to expand the size of the middle class.

He emphasized the significance of establishing a solid social security network to safeguard basic public welfare, especially concerning education, medical care, social insurance and housing. A welfare system and medical aid must be in place for the poor to fall back on if they encounter difficulties, he said.

Li said his government would strive to ensure all Chinese people enjoy equal opportunities and receive due rewards for their hard work, regardless of social or family backgrounds.

Quicker reforms

But Li acknowledged that these are not easy tasks and could only be realized through deepening reforms and upholding the rule of law.

In reforming the country's financial sectors, he reiterated the government will carry out market-oriented reforms of interest rates, the currency exchange rate, develop a multi-tier capital market and make direct financing easier.

To improve public well-being, Li said the government needs to reform the income distribution system and narrow the gap between urban and rural areas.

While allowing more private capital to invest in the financial, energy, railway and other sectors, the government will also reform social security, medical and pension insurance to contribute to labor mobility, the premier said.

Tasks: Reforms of govt, social systems 'vital' for success

The premier also said he will push forward the reform of streamlining government functions and cut the existing 1,700 administrative approval items by at least one-third in the coming five years. He said the government approval system could lead to corruption.

"The reform is about curbing government power. As a self-imposed revolution, it will require real sacrifice and will be painful," he said.

At the first session of the 12th National People's Congress, lawmakers adopted a Cabinet-restructuring plan, which reduced the number of ministry-level departments under the State Council from 27 to 25.

Jon Taylor, a professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, also said reforms in China might not be an easy or quick task, but could, nonetheless, be accomplished.

Li acknowledged on Sunday the difficulty in advancing reform as the nation has to shake up vested interests, which he said may be more difficult than "touching the soul".

Rule of law

Li urged the "building of a modern economy, modern society and modern government with the spirit of the rule of law," and vowed to "be loyal to the Constitution".

"The law has a sacred place in society. No matter who he or she is and what he or she does, the boundaries of the law should not be breached," he said.

Cui Jia and Cao Yin in Beijing, Zhang Yuwei in New York and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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