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 55.

    "Anurag Somani
    The reason why we can post our views and comments on BBC is democracy."

    Not in Scotland, the BBC closed all comments on Scottish stories after the last elections in Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.


    From my experience travelling in China most ordinary people are very happy with the system. .... The West tends to have a habit of focussing [sic] in on the happiness of minority groups, maybe we go too far.

    That is the difference, China is so big they cannot pander to every militant interest group

    Who's to say they are wrong?

    They [the ordinary Chinese] say the system is wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    One of the problems in China is that the Emperor (or Communists) often couldn't export central policies to the outer regions. Party humility in Beijing, is Party arrogance in Zhejiang province. China's idea of reform is a one party rule, minimal human rights & no protests at home, while making extreme territorial claims, Industrial spying, & supporting dictators such as Syria's Assad abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    From my experience travelling in China most ordinary people are very happy with the system. They have a lot more freedoms than previously & are much more wealthy

    The West tends to have a habit of focussing in on the happiness of minority groups, maybe we go too far.

    That is the difference, China is so big they cannot pander to every militant interest group

    Who's to say they are wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    With so many voices in China, for stability I find it difficult if they can ever completely have western style democracy, besides we have our very own form of people controls. The Uk is without doubt one of the most secretive nations in the world, especially if it concerns that all can do piece of legislation, IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF NATIONAL SECURITY!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Positive words indeed, and to be encouraged! I hope these words are backed with action. China is a country where people have the worst of both worlds: they do not have democracy or freedom of speech, but neither do they have the protection of the state in respects such as being guaranteed housing or jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I would rather see a slow, considered change in the political system in China, than the absolute chaos that is rampant in the Middle East.
    We in the west must remember that our democracy evolved over two centuries or more, why do we expect it to be quicker elsewhere? The fight for freedom in Syria is proof that there are too many points of view to say which is better for the people.

  • Comment number 48.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.


    You should get your facts right, its 600bil YUAN not dollars (~$85bil). This is the cost of policing the population and other internal security like terrorist intelligence. China has a far larger population than the US yet the total US budget is about $215bil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    China has grown into a major superpower and it continues to grow stronger and stronger and we should be worried as there are 1.2 billion + of them . If people want to criticise the americans for how they are and playing hardball , that is nothing compared to how the chinese can be ........ they are already beginning to flex their muscles and they are tough .

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    To view the Cultural Revolution as a tragedy is a welcome step forward, but BEWARE of the CHINESE LOCUSTS, especially if you live in the Third World.
    They will strip your country of anything of value and leave your people to starve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.


    14. FatMao
    China history is used politically as propaganda
    Almost laughable. China is the only state uses propaganda? In what ways our histories are honest and accurate? The history being told is always modified. Not to mention your naive generalisation of other cultures.

    There's a plethora of history books in the western libraries, in China there's only state sanctioned ones!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    #31: following your logic, should all people of European origin being kicked out from continents such as America (north & south) and Oceania? Tibet only declared independence after the WWI but never accepted by ANY Chinese government. I might be very wrong here but would you allow your family member split your house into pieces once they are tipped by some stranger they could be better off

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    14. FatMao
    Westerners should understand that Western history has to be accurate and honest..China history is used politically as propaganda and honesty...That's the Chinese culture!
    Almost laughable. China is the only state uses propaganda? In what ways our histories are honest and accurate? The history being told is always modified. Not to mention your naive generalisation of other cultures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Maybe Guns 'N' Roses should have called their album Western Democracy instead, because it's clear that the US, the UK, and certain other states in Europe are showing nothing but contempt for their populaces while China is in serious discussion over reforming their political structure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @25: Given the fact that the vast majority of a population of 1.5 billion are happy, I don't think we can be too critical of China's approach.
    Given the fact that the PRC spend more on policing it's own citizens that it does on it's military (official figure is $600Billion; probably double that), I think it's fair to say the vast majority aren't happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Had to switch to VPN, (from Shanghai) today the Chinese have
    blocked BBC, stupid censorship, stupid Chinese

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The economical, political and social differences between the large Socialist states (now democratic Centralist) and Capitalist Democratic States are now so minute as to be irrelevent.
    All are drawn in by money and trade and keen to keep the masses under control.....All are Police States with the difference being that some are more zealous than others when it comes to suppressing dissentors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    China's political reform is long overdue. However; it's a complicated situation between different groups within the CCP party. Of course I'd like to see the reformists like Wen win out in the end. But I also think that the West should be careful of what they wish for. If they think China's rising power is difficult to contain now, wait till it was to become a free and democratic country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    China is more like a continent than a country; it has 56 ethnic minorities, not just the Han and Tibetans. Its like trying to mange Europe as one country with all differences in the member states, difficult hey. Even we can't get it right and guess what, you get countries like us in thr UK who don't want to play ball.


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