China's Wen Jiabao says 'reforms urgent'


Premier Wen Jiabao says China must press on with reforms

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China's Premier Wen Jiabao has delivered a strong warning about the ''urgent'' need for reforms, without which, he said, tragedies such as the Cultural Revolution could still happen.

He was speaking after his last National People's Congress news conference.

He added that China's decision to cut its economic growth target to 7.5% for 2012 was essential to sustain growth.

He also spoke on US-China trade links, relations with Taiwan and said that China would step up currency reform.

He stressed that China needed to press on with both political and economic reforms.

Reforms, he added, had to be ''gradual and orderly'' and were essential for the country's economy.

This was the last NPC meeting before a leadership transition begins later this year. Mr Wen opened the meetings last week with a speech that cut the economic growth target and addressed land and military issues.

The once-in-a-decade transfer of power will begin in October. Vice-President Xi Jinping is widely expected to take over the party leadership from President Hu Jintao, and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is tipped to succeed Mr Wen.

Mr Wen was speaking to both domestic and foreign journalists after the closing of the parliament session.

Countdown to transition

  • October 2012: The 17th Central Committee (2007-2012) convenes to select China's 18th Central Committee (2013-2018), including party secretary, Politburo and Standing Committee
  • March 2013: Selection of new government, including president, premier and State Council at the NPC
  • Timing unclear: Hu Jintao to step down as chairman of Central Military Commission
  • Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang seen as frontrunners to replace President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao

Responding to a question, he said that the desire for democracy in the Middle East must be ''respected and truly responded to''.

''I believe this trend towards democracy cannot be held back by any force," he said.

However, the series of self-immolations in Tibet, he said, were ''extreme''.

A number of people including monks, mostly in southwest Tibetan areas of China, have set themselves on fire in protest over Chinese rule in Tibet. Activists and rights groups say at least 19 have died.

'Sorry' for problems

As he began the news conference, he was visibly emotional, saying that he was ''sorry'' for economic and social problems in the last decade.

As the leader of the country, he said, he ''should assume responsibility'' for the problems in the country during his time in office.

"There is still room for improvement in my work," said the leader who is heading into his last year as premier.

Premier Wen is often referred to as "Grandpa Wen" in China, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.

He is seen as the people's champion and is known - in public at least - for his humility, says our correspondent.

In the three-hour news conference, he addressed questions ranging from domestic issues such as housing prices and the controversial incident involving senior Chongqing policeman Wang Lijun.

Mr Wang, who spent a day at the US consulate in southwest China, sparking speculation he was seeking asylum, was removed from his post and was said to be on leave because of "stress".

Mr Wen said local authorities must ''seriously'' reflect and learn from the incident. Beijing regarded this ''very seriously'' and progress has been made in ongoing investigations, he added.

On US-China trade, he said he would like to expand US imports and increase two-way investments.

On cross-straits relations with Taiwan, he said that he was pleased with the progress, but would like to see stronger economic ties, including encouraging banks in China and Taiwan to invest in each other.

On the Chinese currency, he said that the yuan may be nearing an ''equilibrium'' and pledged to allow the yuan to float more freely as part of its efforts to reform its currency policy.

At the conclusion of the parliament session earlier, lawmakers voted on government work reports and budgets and passed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law that sets out police powers to detain dissidents.

The official Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese parliament adopted the country's plan for national economic and social development and the budget.

The changes to the criminal law that some critics say could legalise secret detention was passed with a vast majority of some 3,000 delegates voting for in favour. Others say the revisions would limit the police's power to carry out such detentions.

This law follows a spate of detentions of high-profile dissidents last year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    There are many cases out there that supports this argument. And maybe, a figure that he has been trying to portrait of himself, so as to close the distance between him and the people. Not to mention being so outspoken and be the first to do and promote controversial things in chinese politics meant taking a great risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    When people talk about Western Democracy, I'm not sure that we should be included in that description. We have an elected autocracy with even that choice further limited by "first past the post" vote counting and party politics.
    A far cry indeed from anything resembling democracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    China’s confession applies to every nation around the globe. Our present economic behaviour makes no sense for the mere reason that we have trespassed all the Laws of Economics. The 1% of the 99/1% has manipulated a money flow that directs the money to the elite few, i.e. “the breach between the rich and the poor is getting wider and wider.” Google “The World Monetary Order”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    What are we to make of your comment 'he is known - in public at least - for his humility'? Is there something we should know? Or is the comment just a chunk of smart-arsed journalese?

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I've never been closer to China than Ramsgate and I don't speak the language. Everything I think I know about the country I've learned second-hand. I'll leave insightful comment to others better placed.
    But I believe I can say that Wen Jiabao seems an ace guy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    The rapid rate of machine technology is deeply alarming and confusing because it is faint. People can and do mistake other beings as the cause of fear. This results not only in aggression, but neglect of the safety of others including children. The origin of the living fear is in the most fundamental constitutions of living organisms, and these progress at celestial, glacial and galactic rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I certainly agree on the need for balance. Dahl's principles are a bit idealistic, from what I can remember - we probably don't have that entirely here either.

    I do have some sympathy for the Chinese position; in the UK, we don't need to face the issues that China does - development would be much slower with our overly-beaurocratic processes for example, leaving more in proverty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    It's amazing how many rulers with pretty much unassailable power only decide 'urgent' reforms are needed when their time in power is coming to an end. If they are so 'urgent' why didn't he do more to speed them up when he had the chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Just to clarify, I am studying in the UK and this is a rather unbiased and very scientific academic approach made by western scholars (Womack 1991). I hope you can stop using terms such as "brainwash" or "nonsense" to anything that is different from your point of view and favours China. Try to take in, but be critical of what you learn. Critical like (@105.W_X)

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The only reason the west wants faster changes in China is to get fatter with profits to rebuild their weakened economies, but looking at what the west has done to itself China is no hurry to follow suit. China used it veto against action towards Syria because it feels it has no business in interferring in Syria's business even thought it probably doesn't agree with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    In terms of a representitive democracy, China is far from there. Only some experiments at local levels with the local people's congress. Freedoms outlined by Robert Dahl is not a must in Moral Democracy. However, that is not to say China can limit freedom and ignore the check and balance system of the west. A mix of both ideology should be the next step forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Modern China was engineered by Henry Kissinger and President Nixon although few Chinese and even most Americans probably aren't aware of it.It is based on 5000 year old Chinese cultural propensity for mercantilism.That irresistable force will meet the immovable object of brutal tyrannical dictatorship.What will happen?If history is any guide it will be be violent.Neither side will be denied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @ 96. W_X

    You talk nonsense, another brain washed stooge of the communist party!

    In the chinese mindset they are always the victim and never the perpetrator, watch how they cry over Nanjing but get nasty when Tibet or Xinjiang are mentioned!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    A larger part of China's population are experiencing more finical freedom than ever in the past. With finical freedoms being gained it is only natural the same population will thirst for comparable personnel freedoms to be extended. It will be up to China if it can satisfy that rate of thirst fast enough to make that transition orderly or one chaos. The Gov can not un-ring the bell freedoms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    That comment of mine was a little tongue-in-cheek to be fair, not too serious.

    Obviously I know democracy is a broad concept, yes. In the west we have a representative democracy for example, and even that in itself is a spectrum.

    I'm not sure if China is quite there yet; to me, free information is a democratic requirement, but your posts are interesting, good to hear the other side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    93. John
    14. FatMao China history is used politically as propaganda


    and I guess you think that we didn't go over there to hock the entire country onto Opium either. Dude, google "Opium Wars" or that after the western countries left China in a mess, the Japanese invaded too.

    Opium was in widespread use in China long before the British got there! Be honest!

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.


    For once in their history? If you could look through Chinese history you would know it is a nation full of regime transitions and dynasty changes. Once in its history is a place of united kingdom as well (ChunQiu, Zhanguo etc). A smooth transition is essential. And again, that requires time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Farmers, in many countries, have the highest suicide rates in the world.

    When will this be confronted? Without farmers, especially small farms, there will be no choice of food supply - unless of course you want huge corporations to control your food supply and control you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Why are people in the West so hell bent on spreading democracy, so much so that they try to undermine every country that isn't. Eventually China will be the world's largest economy and they will have proven once and for all that democracy isn't a "necessary" condition for prosperity. Contradicting the consensus of the last century

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    There is no real defination of democracy. As a student of Politics, i can tell you its still a concept being debated and differed in opinion. China's democracy is very different to that of the West. Its what we call moral democracy. (Even the Western democracy is not the true democracy). I would suggest u to do more research on that and see what democracy in China is really about.


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