As transition ends, China leaders pledge fairness, less waste, reform
AP, Reuters and AFPBEIJING -- China's new leaders struck a populist tone Sunday as they got down to the painstaking work of governing, promising cleaner government, less red tape and more fairness to enlarge a still small middle class and help struggling private businesses.
March 18, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
In appearances that mark the completion of a months-long, orchestrated leadership transition, President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) stressed the urgency of reining in runaway official corruption to restore the Communist Party's frayed public credibility.
Xi will fight for a “great renaissance of the Chinese nation,” he said Sunday.
In his first speech as head of state, Xi called for “the continued realization of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation and the Chinese dream,” laying out a vision of a stronger military and ever-higher living standards.
The 25-minute address closed a parliament meeting which named Xi as head of state and Li Keqiang as premier, four months after the pair took the top two posts in the ruling Communist Party — the real source of their power.
Li's first news conference as premier covered topics that have been the principal focus of recent government rhetoric, with a strong emphasis on the necessity of reform to deliver long-term economic stability.
Li made specific pledges to slash official perks and government extravagance to free up money for social welfare programs at a time of slower economic growth. He said a ban will be put on building new government offices, government payrolls will be reduced, as will spending on banquets, travel and cars — behavior that has fueled public anger and protests.
“If the people are to live a good life, their government must be put on a tight budget,” Li said in his first news conference as premier after the end of the annual session of the national legislature.
“The highest priority will be to maintain sustainable economic growth,” Li said at the start of the conference that lasted almost two hours and in which he repeatedly stressed the need for economic, social and government reform.
“The key is to have economic transformation. We need to combine the dividends of reform, the potential of domestic demand and the vitality of creativity so that these together will form new drivers of economic growth,” he added.
Tackling Vested Interests
More striking was a vision Li outlined of a more limited government and its ties to reducing graft and unleashing the dynamism of entrepreneurs, migrant workers and the middle class. To do so will require taking on vested interests, he said, without identifying by name the powerful state-run enterprises and well-connected businesses.
“Sometimes stirring vested interests may be more difficult that stirring the soul, but however deep the water may be, we will wade into the water. This is because we have no alternative. Reform concerns the destiny of our country and the future of our nation.”