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Wen declares China is stable

Waving a red pencil, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday ruled out comparisons between China and countries battling revolts against authoritarian regimes.

world Updated: Mar 15, 2011 10:24 IST
Reshma Patil

Waving a red pencil, Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday ruled out comparisons between China and countries battling revolts against authoritarian regimes. But mindful of issues stoking domestic discontent, the populist face of the politburo promised a turnaround in Beijing’s economic planning to no longer ‘worship GDP’ but seek balanced growth and greater innovation inside the world’s number two economy.

“We have followed closely the political turbulence in some countries in West Asia and North Africa,’’ Wen said in his annual media conference. “It is not right to draw an analogy between China and those countries.” Wen said that the Chinese citizens are aware that the last three decades of economic reform markedly improved their lives. “China is still taking exploratory steps in reform,’’ he said, adding that the Chinese development path is 'not a model'. He was speaking after the Chinese legislature approved a five-year plan focused on a 7 per cent annual GDP goal (compared to the average 7.5-8 per cent target) aiming at greener and more balanced development. China routinely exceeds its annual single-digit GDP target for breakneck double-digit expansion.

While assuring that economic restructuring would be a ‘priority’, he warned of the challenges of controlling inflation, income inequalities, housing prices and creating jobs in the world’s most populous developing nation. “Seven per cent is not a low target,’’ he said. “It will not be an easy task.”

Speaking in measured words --- ‘inflation is like a tiger that once set free cannot be caged’ --- the Premier said he had a ‘heavy agenda’ that included political reforms before he retires in two years. “I believe reform is an eternal theme of history,’’ he said. “Without political restructuring, the achievements made in economic restructuring may be lost…Only an open and inclusive society can be strong…We must give full play to people’s independent thinking and creativity.’’

Last year, Wen made similar remarks on political reform; some were censored within the Communist Party-run media. This time, he made it clear that any political reform would be undertaken ‘in an orderly manner under the Party leadership,’ ruling out major changes in governance or expanding direct elections beyond villages. Last week, top legislator Wu Bangguo also made it clear in more emphatic terms that China will not adopt a multi-party system to avoid chaos and an 'abyss of internal disorder'.

Economic reform will also move on China’s terms. The Chinese currency renminbi will not appreciate as rapidly as the world desires because a gradual appreciation, said Wen, suits the interests of Chinese businesses and ‘social stability’.