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Premier Li Keqiang meets the press today
2013/03/17

Premier Li Keqiang gestures during the news conference in Beijing, March 17, 2013. [Photo by Wu Zhiyi/Asianewsphoto]

Following are highlights of Li Keqiang's first news conference as Chinese Premier on March 17, 2013.

On cross-Straits relations

The two sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China. Residents on the two sides of Straits are compatriots. The concept of compatriots is deep-rooted in Chinese culture. I believe that is the reason our nation has thrived for 5,000 years. Bones may be broken, but they are not split, because we are compatriots. Between us, there is no knot that cannot be untied.

We’re happy to see that in recent years cross-Straits relations have enjoyed peaceful development and cross-Straits cooperation has yielded good fruit. As long as we maintain the one China principle and the bond of compatriots, then there will be great space and potential in cross-Straits relations.

My government will fulfill the commitment made by the last government and, at the same time, to identify the new pivots for cross-Straits cooperation. In the course of developing the mainland, we will give more consideration for the well-being and interests of Taiwan residents, so that the two sides can share the fruits of the country’s development.

Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to our common homeland. We need to maintain and develop well this common homeland, so that it will be full of flowers. When flowers are in full blossom, there will be a time for the moon to be full again.

On anti-corruption

Corruption and the nature of our government are water and fire. I want to state clearly that Chinese government has a great determination to fight corruption.

As government officials, we should serve the public and end the idea of making money, because they are two separated lines. We’d like to accept supervision from the society and media.

We need to establish and perfect the way we combat corruption, and we will punish corrupt officials without mercy. More importantly, we’ll create a transparent environment, allowing the public to supervise effectively.

To provide a better life for people, the government has to practice austerity. A few days ago, I received a financial budget report, saying the central government revenue increases only 1.6 percent. People’s livelihood must increase, not decrease, and our governments need to cut spending.

First, new governmental buildings will not be built. Second, a number of people on the government payroll will decrease, not increase. Third, receptions, business trips and the use of official vehicles will decrease, not increase.

On environmental protection

Li said we should not pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment. This government has made a greater resolve to provide people with clean air, safe drinking water and safe food.

Measures include creating a new model of development and pursuing scientific strategies, raising environmental thresholds and phasing out backward production tools.

Li urged a more transparent government and more public supervision to address the environmental issues, and the government should also help people take precautionary measures as well.

Q: Is there a timetable for the reform of re-education through labor?

Please allow me to give you a brief answer. About the plan for the reeducation through labor reform, the relevant departments are working intensively to formulate a plan, and it may be laid out before the end of this year.

On China-US ties

When I visited the US in the 1980s, a national election was in process, and I met people of both parties. They said to me no matter who is elected, the cooperation with China and the principle of one China will not change.

Over the last decade, there have been ups and downs in China-US relations, but the friendship has always been moving forward. We want to build a new type of relationship with the Obama administration. You ask me how to build it and it makes me think that I often meet American political leaders. They tell me frankly that they are coming for the benefit of the US. I tell them I work for China. So we have something in common. Look back three decades ago and the trade volume between China and US was only $1 billion. Last year it is more than $500 billion.

We will continue to cooperate and promote mutual benefits. In the future there will be more opportunities for trade and investment. I do not deny that there are conflicts between China and the US. We should respect each other and control the disputes. Shared interests often override disputes. We can learn from each other to promote friendship between the people and enhance the social foundation of China-US relations.

China and the US both have expressed an intention to keep the Asia Pacific region steady and prosperous. I hope we do what we say.

You asked about cyberattacks. This is a worldwide problem. China is the main target of these attacks. China does not support it and firmly objects cyberattacks. What you just said makes me feel it is presumption of guilt. We should not make groundless criticisms and do more to protect cybersafety.

On reforms

Li said China will pursue economic transformation to make full use of fiscal, financial, pricing and other policy instruments, and it will pursue the reform of budget system to make it more open, transparent and inclusive, which will allow the people to better supervise financial revenue and expenditure, and tilt government spending to areas that will benefit the people.

Li said that his government will improve people’s well-being, promote social fairness and to do that we will encounter the income distribution system.

The premier also said that in pursuing reform China need to focus on the key areas and ensure overall coordination so as to make it clear the goal of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Urbanization

Li said urbanization is the logical result of modernization and the scale of China's urbanization is quite big and has attracted the attention of the world.

Urbanization should help farmers to realize their dreams of having the same living standards as urban residents.

New urbanization should come together with industrialization of the agricultural sector. China's east and west regions should pursue organized urbanization.

Urbanization is a complex project and needs to be supported by many reforms.

Government’s priorities for the future

The 18th Party Congress has already laid out a comprehensive plan for the government’s work. First, we need to strive for sustainable development. We must be prepared for danger in times of safety because the future economic environment of China will remain harsh and complex. We need to maintain sustainable economic growth, prevent inflation and control potential risks so as to avoid major fluctuations in the Chinese economy. Domestic demand is crucial for China to maintain an average growth rate of 7 percent, which is necessary for China to realize the targets set for 2020. We need to promote economic transition and combine the potentials of domestic demand and the vigor of creativity so as to further upgrade quality, efficiency, employment, people’s incomes and environmental protection and resources conservation.

Second, we need to improve people’s livelihoods, especially among low-income groups, and expand middle-income groups. We need to ensure basic necessities for people and develop a social safety net to include compulsory education, medical care, elderly care and housing. We need to improve the subsistence allowance system and provide assistance to people suffering from major diseases. The government will mobilize all resources and do its utmost to ensure the basic rights and dignity of the people.

Third, we need to ensure social fairness, which is the source of societal creativity and yardstick of the government’s work. We need to make sure the hard work of all people, no matter from urban or rural areas, and regardless of their family backgrounds, is rewarded. We also need to make sure all wealth creators, be they State-owned, private or individually run businesses, can achieve success as long as they compete in a level playing field and in a clean and honest way.

Three things are essential for the government to achieve these goals. An innovative government will further unleash the creativity of the economy and society. A clean government will be more credible, effective and efficient. The government must work abiding by laws and nobody can exceed the boundary of law. The rule of law is essential to build a modern economy, modern society and modern government.

Li on government overhaul

The plan for institutional reform and transforming the government function has drawn a lot of attention. Is this your ideal plan? How can the reform achieve the goal of streamlining administration, delegating power to the lower levels and transforming government function?

The core of this reform plan is to transform the government function and streamline administration. We can say the institutional reform is to optimize the distribution of the government’s internal power, and the transforming function is to redefine the relations between the government and society and between government and the market.

Frankly speaking, let the market and society decide what they are capable of accomplishing. The government should manage affairs well in what it is supposed to do.

Institutional reform is not an easy task. However, the function of transformation is a tougher one because it is more profound.

The administrative examination and approval system is too complicated to improve efficiency. So the government’s transformation work has to be started with reforming that system. Right now, departments of the State Council still hold the approval rights of more than 1,700 items, the government of this term has made up its mind to cut more than one-third of its approval items.

Use the market to replace the improper roles of government. This is a self-imposed revolution and it will be painful, like cutting the wrist. But it is needed to develop and deliver the want of people. We should have the determination to cut the wrist like brave warriors. We should practice what we preach and cannot afford to dwell on the trivial.

Government to increase care for most needed

Premier Li said that the Chinese government needs to increase care for the most needed to prevent them from challenging the society. The government has to ensure the people's rights to existence and their human dignity, Li said at a press conference.

Streamline administrative approval

Li Keqiang said Sunday that the State Council will cut the existing 1,700 administrative approval items by at least one third.

Li stresses loyalty to people and law

Li Keqiang emphasized his loyalty to the people and the law on Sunday in his opening remarks at his first news conference as Chinese Premier.

He started by thanking reporters for their coverage of the two political sessions, before introducing the vice-premiers one by one and expressing his gratitude to the people and deputies for their trust.

The wants of the people will point the direction for the government’s future efforts, and the new government will work by strictly following the Constitution, he said.

On China-Russia relations

President Xi’s upcoming visit to Russia itself illustrates the importance of China-Russia relations. I remember when I visited Russia last year, Russian leaders directly said China-Russia political relations are already very good and asked why we don't spend more time on talking about practical cooperation.

I feel strongly that Russian leaders are eager to enhance bilateral tangible cooperation and make use of the complementary advantages in terms of trade. Two-way trade between China and Russia stands at $80 billion. I think through our joint efforts, it will not be a problem to double the trade.

China and Russia are working together to push forward practical cooperation and strengthen coordination in regional and international affairs. Cement bilateral relations will not only beneficial for the countries, it will also help maintain regional and world peace. In fact, China and its neighboring countries are working together to promote mutual-beneficial cooperation and make full use of the each country’s advantages … to fuel the peaceful development in the Asia-Pacific.

On Li's political experience

Li used to be an educated urban youth in Fengyang of Anhui province. Fengyang was a well-known poor village at that time and also the cradle of the reform of the rural contract system.

What he learned from his past study and work is that he believe only by being honest and working with a fair attitude can a man benefit the people and society.

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