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China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - 01:59

Mar.5 - China sent its strongest signal yet that its days of chasing breakneck economic growth are over, promising to wage a ''war'' on pollution. Sarah Toms reports.

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China's leaders gather in Beijing amid the pomp and splendour of the Great Hall of the People. Three thousand hand-picked delegates arrive on the opening day of the National People's Congress. They're here to listen to China's plan for economic and social development. Beijing announced a growth target of 7.5% -- the highest level among the world's major economies. Many analysts say maintaining that kind of breakneck expansion, while introducing reforms, is not sustainable. But Premier Li Keqiang said economic development was the government's central task but acknowledged "painful structural adjustments" were needed. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER LI KEQIANG SAYING: "Currently, China's reform has entered a critical stage and a deep water zone. We must fully rely on the people, break mental shackles and vested interests with ultimate determination, and use the economic structural reform as a starting point to deepen comprehensive reform in all areas." Li, though, did not mince words when he pledged to "declare war" on pollution. In many urban areas, including Beijing, pollution levels routinely exceed the safety limits set by the World Health Organisation. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER LI KEQIANG SAYING: "Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is a red-light warning sent by nature against the model of extensive development. We must strengthen protection of the ecological environment and be resolute to take forceful measures to complete this challenging task." The premier also vowed to fight corruption "without mercy" and revealed plans to raise its defence budget by 12.2%. There is very little chance the party's proposals will not be approved. The annual parliament meeting has the power to enact and amend legislation. But it is generally considered a rubber stamp for the ruling Communist Party.

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China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - 01:59