BEIJING China must focus on economic growth and
social stability in the face of a global slump, President Hu
Jintao said on Thursday, vowing a stronger state role in
steering market reforms.
In a speech celebrating 30 years of reform policies that
have ushered in a stronger economy and rising expectations at
all levels of society, Hu tried to deliver reassurance that
government efforts to counter the economic crisis were working.
He also warned the Communist Party not to be complacent,
saying its political status as ruling party was not a given,
but Hu ruled out embracing Western-style democracy in a sign
the Party was not about to hold elections anytime soon.
"We must deeply recognise that the Party's advanced nature
and ruling party status are not ... unalterable," Hu said.
Hu also renewed his promise to create a more equal and
"harmonious society" as the country frets over rising
unemployment and spreading discontent. After five straight
years of double-digit growth, China is headed for single-digit
expansion this year and a sharper slowdown next year.
Pride of place in Hu's address to ranks of officials in the
cavernous Great Hall of the People was the insistent message
that growth and Party control came before all else.
"Only development makes hard sense," Hu said more than
once, reviving a slogan the late reformist leader Deng Xiaoping
used to spur on investment and spending.
"Making economic development the focus is the key to
national rejuvenation and it is the fundamental imperative for
our Party and our country achieving prosperity and development
and enduring peace and stability."
Hu's speech celebrated China's success since 1978, when a
Party leadership meeting agreed to focus on economic
development after decades of turmoil and isolation under Mao
But the keynote address was also a peptalk.
Hu said China had "achieved positive results in responding
to the international financial crisis" and that the country
needed to continue its difficult balance of market reforms and
top-down political control.
"We must earnestly implement various measures to further
boost domestic demand and promote economic growth, properly
address the global financial crisis and other risks from the
international economic world and do our best to keep relatively
fast and stable growth," Hu said.
China is worried that the thousands of factories shutting
or laying off workers, especially along the export-dependent
coast, could lead to unrest if the unemployed hit the streets.
NO TO WESTERN POLITICAL SYSTEM
While stressing that officials must back market reforms and
the private economy, Hu dwelt on the need for greater state
control. China must "focus on strengthening and improving the
state's macro-economic controls and overcoming certain
shortcomings in the market itself," he said.
But Hu also said the country owed three decades of growth
to Deng's reforms that tore down the rigid controls of Mao's
time, opening the economy to private and foreign investment.
His theme of carefully controlled change under the
Communist Party extended to politics, where he said officials
must heed the needs of citizens.
"We must draw on the beneficial fruits of humankind's
political civilisation, but we will never copy the model of the
Western political system," Hu said in a speech loaded with
Party slogans and salutes to past leaders.
China is already grappling with a surge in popular
discontent, caused by corruption, a growing rich/poor divide,
illegal land grabs and other contentious issues. (For a related
analysis on dissent in China, click on [nPEK213054]
"We must be clearly aware that development is of overriding
importance and stability is our overriding task; if there is no
stability, then nothing can be achieved, and what achievements
we have made will be lost," he said.
Exports shrank 2.2 percent from their year-earlier level in
November, the first monthly fall in many years, underlining the
danger of social instability, a primary concern of the
The country's commerce minister ruled out a currency
depreciation as a way of boosting exports, stressing that China
would only seek to help its beleaguered exporters in ways that
benefited the wider world.
"The renminbi exchange rate should be quite stable, because
given our situation, everybody needs stability," Chen Deming
told reporters on the sidelines of the anniversary ceremony.
Zhou Xiaochuan, China's central banker, also insisted that
China would forge its own path on monetary policy when asked if
he felt pressure to reduce interest rates after the U.S.
Federal Reserve slashed rates this week to between zero and
"It's not certain that we have much of a relationship with
that. We will do things according to our own data," he said.
(Reporting by Beijing Bureau; Editing by Nick Macfie and