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Xi's Shenzhen visit a sign of reform: state media

BEIJING -- China's new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has signaled his commitment to push for economic reforms by visiting the city of Shenzhen, the historic hub of modernization, state media said Monday.

Xi's trip, his first official one as ruling party leader, echoed a visit by then-leader Deng Xiaoping to the southern boomtown in 1992 to revive reforms.

Deng had launched China's economic modernization more than three decades ago under the slogan “Reform and Opening.”

According to analysts the pace of restructuring has slowed in the last decade under outgoing leader Hu Jintao, but Xi's choice of destination sent a clear signal.

“The party Central Committee's decision to undertake Reform and Opening was correct,” Xi said, according to the Nanjing Daily.

“We will continue down this path, unswervingly continue down the path of enriching the country and the people, and will break new ground.”

Authorities stressed their commitment to reform during the once-a-decade party leadership handover last month that put Xi in the top spot.

They face growing calls to realign the economy to ensure long-term growth, by reducing reliance on investment and exports and boosting domestic consumption.

Growth slowed to a three-year low of 7.4 percent in the third quarter of this year, hit by the global economic slowdown. Leaders have warned that the past years of dramatic double-digit growth are unlikely to return.

“It is high time the party stepped up reform and opening up,” the Global Times quoted Huang Weiping, director of the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, as saying.

“And Xi chose to visit Shenzhen now because he is aware that China has just experienced a major crisis, and crisis always drives further reforms.”

Xi is due to take over as national president in March.

Shenzhen served as an early “special economic zone” in the 1980s, a laboratory of sorts as the communist country began to seek foreign investment.

The experiment transformed it from a small village bordering Hong Kong to a bustling modern city and helped initiate years of roaring growth for the country.

During his trip late last week Xi visited a fishing village and an industrial park which is home to the IT giant Tencent Technology, the China Daily reported. He also laid flowers at a statue of Deng in a park.

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