Premier Wen Makes his Media Debut: Full Text

Wen Jiabao: I would like to start by introducing my colleagues: Vice-Premier Huang Ju, Vice-Premier Wu Yi, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan and Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu. Among the four vice-premiers, three of them are older than I am. And we are also very fortunate to have one female vice-premier who actually, as you can see, adds colour and life to the podium.

Before I answer your questions, please allow me to use this opportunity to first say a few words to people across the country.

I want to thank the Chinese people for the great trust you place in me. I am a very ordinary person. I come from a family of teachers in the countryside. My grandfather, my father and my mother were all teachers. And my childhood was spent amid the turmoil of war. Our home was literally burned down by the flames of war, and so was the primary school which my grandfather built with his own hands. The untold suffering in the days of old China left an indelible imprint on my young mind.

Since becoming a university student majoring in geology, I spent 25 years working in the geological field. A good part of it was spent in very tough and harsh conditions. That experience taught me how hard life could be and how demanding a job it was to build up our country. But more importantly, that experience filled me with confidence. I firmly believe that, be it a person, a nation or a country, so long as they endure brave hardships and dangers and are not frightened of fatigue and the climb up, they will eventually reach the bright summit.

I have been working in Zhongnanhai (headquarters of the central government) for 18 years, which was an important period in China's reform, opening-up and modernization. I have seen with my own eyes under the leadership of comrades Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, China has made remarkable achievements in its reform and opening-up programmes and has undergone a historical transformation. China's development is a project that is extremely great and demanding. Only through reform, opening-up and building socialism with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) can we succeed in bringing about a strong and prosperous China. And only by adhering to a democratic, scientific and responsible spirit can we achieve our objectives. I have been to 1,800 out of a total of 2,500 counties and districts in China which enables me to better know our national conditions and our people's lives.

I know what they expect and what their expectations are. I will live up to their trust and I will use the confidence, resolve and strength I have gained from the people to perform my solemn constitutional duties as premier. I will exert all my strength and wisdom. I will dedicate myself completely to the service of the country, and do everything possible to live up to the people's expectation.

Now I would be happy to answer your questions.

Question: Over the past five years, China has accomplished a lot. So we would like to have your comments on the work of the previous government and of Premier Zhu Rongji himself. And with the achievements in the past five years, you now face a more demanding job in developing the economy even further. So what do you think are the major difficulties and challenges for the new government?

Answer: The third generation of Chinese leadership, with comrade Jiang Zemin at its core, made an enormous and universally recognized contribution to China's reform, development and stability, and have, through practice, formulated the important thought of the "Three Representsí▒ which is a valuable spiritual asset. The previous government, under the leadership of Premier Zhu, faithfully performed their duties and did a huge amount of remarkable work. The public was satisfied with what they have done.

All of our work will have to be built on what our predecessors have achieved. We will have to be mindful of possible adversities and be prepared for the worst. Actually, I always pay a lot of attention to an ancient motto, that is, one prospers in worries and hardship, and perishes in ease and comfort. Our predecessors have already laid a very good foundation for us. Yet, we are still faced with numerous difficulties and problems ahead which requires innovation and creativity as we press ahead.

The first major problem we are faced with is the backward development of agriculture and slow increase of farmersí» incomes. This has seriously constrained the expansion of China's domestic demand.

Second, some enterprises face difficulties in their business operation and the establishment of a modern corporate system would be a long-term task.

Third, the number of laid-off and unemployed workers continues to increase, putting tremendous pressure on the social security system.

Fourth is the uneven development between the urban and rural areas and between the eastern and western regions of the country. There are still many poverty-stricken regions and people.

Fifth, the financial burden is heavy, and the proportion of non-performing assets or non-performing loans is quite high.

Nevertheless, we have already built strong material and technological bases as a result of 20 years of reform and opening up. So long as we have the right policies and guidelines, I am confident that under the leadership of CPC Central Committee, with Hu Jintao as general secretary, we will surely overcome all the difficulties and achieve the grand objective of building a well-off society in an all round way.

Question: When Premier Zhu Rongji just became premier, he said whatever lies ahead, be it a field of landmines or unfathomable abyss, he will exert all his efforts and contribute all his best to the country until the last minute of his life. Compared with his working style, what are the features of your working style?

Answer: I have a lot of respect for Premier Zhu. He has many strong points that I need to learn from him. As for myself, it is generally believed that I am quite mild-tempered. But, at the same time, I am someone who has deeply held convictions, who holds his grounds if it is consistent with his principles and who is confident and courageous enough to take up responsibilities. Since I became premier, I have been whispering two lines written by Lin Zexu (a patriotic Qing Dynasty official in the 19th century) to myself. And they are: I will do whatever it takes to serve my country even at the cost of my own life, regardless of fortune or misfortune to myself.

This will be the attitude in which I will start my work.

Question: Just now you mentioned that the tasks for the new government will be very daunting. True, the new government will shoulder heavy responsibilities because it will strive to make a good beginning in an endeavour to build a well-off society in an all-round way. So my question is: What will be the objective and programme for the new government in the coming five years?

Answer: You have raised a very important issue that, as a premier, I will have to answer very seriously.

For once, I made an attempt to summarize our future work in four sentences.

First, to strive to achieve one objective. That is, to maintain steady and rapid economic growth and continuously improve the people's living standards. To this end, we have to ensure the continuity and consistency of policies and continue to stimulate domestic demand and adopt a pro-active fiscal policy.

Second, to strive to grasp two crucial links, namely, to continue to advance the strategic restructuring of our economy and to continue to open China wider to the outside world.

Third, strive to tackle three major problems in our economic life, they are: No 1, employment and social security system; No 2, to increase revenue and reduce expenditure; and No 3, to continue with our efforts to rectify and standardize the market economic order.

Fourth, to advance reform in four areas. The first area is rural reform. Rural reform includes tax-for-fee reform, grain distribution system reform, reform in the way farmers are subsidized and rural financial reform as well as rural medicare system reform. The second area is enterprise reform. Enterprise reform will be taken as our central task in economic reform, and we are committed to establishing a modern corporate system, while at the same time deepening our reform in State assets management. The third area is financial reform. On the one hand, we need to establish and improve the regulatory system for the financial sector. And at the same time we need to accelerate our reform of the State-owned commercial banks, so that they can genuinely become modern financial institutions.

Fourth is the institutional reform of the government. The plan of the reform has been made well-known to you all. I think this reform is actually a make-or-break reform for the conformation of the function of the government.

So now you are familiar with these four sentences. In order to ensure that these objectives are met and fulfilled, we need to follow the following principles which can be described as: co-coordinating urban and rural developments, east-west interaction, domestic demand plus external opening-up, combining central and local initiatives, balancing long-term and immediate interests, and an appropriate degree of intensity.

To be specific, by co-ordinating urban and rural development, I mean that agriculture and rural development should be taken as a priority among priorities in order to achieve a co-ordinated development between the urban and rural areas.

By east-west interaction, I mean that the eastern coastal regions should seize the opportunity to accelerate development and be the first to achieve modernization. More emphasis will be placed on the readjustment, transformation and rejuvenation of China's old industrial bases, and we will continue to make efforts to press ahead with the country's western development strategy.

By domestic demand plus external opening-up, I mean that we will continue to mainly pursue the policy of expanding domestic demand, while opening China still wider to the outside world by seizing the wonderful opportunity presented with China's World Trade Organization membership.

By combining central and local initiatives, I mean that we should bring into full play the enthusiasm of both the central government and the localities.

By balancing long-term and immediate interests, I mean that we will continue to pursue the policy of revitalizing our country through science and education and to carry out the strategy of sustainable development, so that the Chinese economic and social development will always be sustained.

Finally, by an appropriate degree of intensity, I mean that we need to balance the speed of development and the intensity of reform against the resilience of the public, and properly handle the relations among reform, development and stability.

Question: Correspondents from Hong Kong are very interested to know which of the four vice-premiers will have Hong Kong-Macao affairs in their portfolio? We would also like to know will there be any change in the new government's policy towards Hong Kong. At the moment, Hong Kong runs a high fiscal deficit. And the unemployment rate is going up. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government, as well as the residents of Hong Kong are all trying very hard to get through the difficult period. What measures will the central government adopt to further support the Hong Kong SAR government and Hong Kong people to get over the difficulties? And the last question is, when do you plan to visit Hong Kong to encourage the people of Hong Kong to overcome their difficulties? I'm sure you will be most welcome there.

Answer: Thank you for your question. Your question gives me the opportunity to extend for the first time through media my best wishes and most cordial greetings towards Hong Kong and Macao compatriots.

Over the past five years and more, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the Hong Kong SAR government have very well implemented the basic policy of "one country, two systemsí▒ as well as the principles enshrined in the basic law. As a result, they have well safeguarded the freedoms and rights enjoyed by Hong Kong compatriots according to law. Hong Kong has also successfully overcame the economic difficulties caused by the Asian financial crisis and has maintained stability and development.

There is no doubt that, at the moment, Hong Kong is suffering from major difficulties. The unemployment rate is going up. And the fiscal deficit is increasing. This has to do with the changes in the world economic situation. It also has to do with structural problems in the Hong Kong economy.

Nonetheless, Hong Kong's advantages are still there. Hong Kong enjoys a strong material base. Up to now, Hong Kong has incurred no debt, both internal or external. And the household savings rate is higher than the savings rate in 1997.

Hong Kong enjoys a comprehensive legal framework. Hong Kong also enjoys advantages in its geographical location. Hong Kong is also blessed with a large pool of people with management expertise. So, what Hong Kong needs now, more than anything else, is unity and confidence.

I have every confidence in the wisdom and ability of the people of Hong Kong. I'm confident that, under the leadership of the Hong Kong SAR government led by Mr Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong will surely surmount its temporary difficulties.

As for the support from the central government to Hong Kong, here, I wish to state, in clear-cut terms, that the central government will, as always, continue to give support to Hong Kong to ensure its stability and development. As a matter of fact, we are losing no time in bringing about the arrangement for closer economic ties and trade between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a splendid pearl of China. To maintain Hong Kong's stability and prosperity is our firm objective. It is also what the responsibility of the central government dictates. So the central government is duty-bound to make that happen.

I hope to visit Hong Kong very soon. The sooner, the better.

Question: Could you tell us what will be the preferential policies for private enterprises? And could you also kindly shed light on if China has any plan to widen the band in which the value of the RMB fluctuates?

Answer: The government has set the policy, a firm policy, to develop the non-public sectors, including the individually-owned and privately-run enterprises.

So long as these enterprises operate in accordance with law, pay taxes in accordance with regulations, and so long as these enterprises meet safety and environmental standards, and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of their employees, the government will give them support and actually encourage their growth, because their development will be very important for the creation of more job opportunities.

We will ensure a level playing field. In that level playing field, the individually owned and privately-run enterprises will get the same treatment when it comes to market access, taxation, loan application and import and export businesses.

You also asked a question about the exchange rate of our currency. The practice of China now is a regulated floating rate which is based on changes in market demand and supply.

We integrated the two-track exchange rate in 1994. Our rate has not remained unchanged since then. As a matter of fact, in real terms, the value of the RMB has appreciated against the US dollar by 18 per cent, and has appreciated by 34 per cent against the euro.

We will continue to explore approaches and work to improve the mechanism under which the exchange rate is determined. Here I want to make one explanation: a strong and stable RMB yuan is not only in China's own interest. It is also a blessing for Asia and the world at large.

Question: We have seen the following two kinds of opinions in overseas media. First, they believe that China has accomplished a lot in economic reform. By contrast, the pace of political restructuring seems quite slow. And the other view is that as the anti-corruption campaign gets more intensive in China, it only serves to detect more corruption cases involving officials of even higher rank, who accept even bigger bribes. What's your comment on these two reports and what measures will the new government come up with to further deepen political restructuring and to build a clean, honest, diligent and efficient government?

Answer: Advancing political restructuring is the firm objective of our Party and government.

We have always approached the subject of political restructuring from two major perspectives. One is what is socialism and how to build and improve socialism, and the other is what kind of Party to build and how to build it.

The basic objective is as follows: We will develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist legal system and run the country in accordance with law. And eventually ensure the people's role as masters of the country.

This government plans to push forward political restructuring in three aspects.

First, establishing a scientific and democratic decision-making mechanism. Before we make any major decisions on big economic issues or economic projects, we would seek opinions and views from officials, experts and the general public for a thorough debate. In this way, we can have a democratic decision-making mechanism.

Second, law-based administration.

Government departments and civil servants must perform their duties in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and law, and act within the bounds of laws and regulations.

Third, democratic supervision. The governments will willingly subject themselves to supervision by the People's Congresses, democratic supervision from the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the supervision from the general public and media.

Only when the public are asked to supervise the government, the government cannot afford to slacken its efforts. Only when every person assumes his or her responsibility can we ensure the vigour and vitality of government.

In the past few years, we have accomplished a lot in our anti-corruption efforts. Yet we still have to admit that, at present, corruption remains a quite serious problem. At a time of economic structural transition, this problem is especially serious in some areas.

The new government is prepared to step up anti-corruption efforts in four aspects.

First, strictly enforce discipline in the civil service. Second, get tough with law-breaking civil servants with more severe punishment. Third, we will press ahead with institutional reform. We will reform the system of administration, the system of administrative examination approval, the system of financial resources management and also the system of human resource management. Finally, subject government to increasing supervision from all sides.

Here, on behalf of the new government, I would like to solemnly pledge that we will take the lead in setting a good example and we will willingly accept public supervision by the people of the country.

Question: I want to ask whether the government will inject public funds into the four State-owned commercial banks to help them dispose of their non-performing loans (NPLs) and make them more competitive?

My second question is, do you have any plan to visit Japan this year as it marks the 25th anniversary of the treaty of peace and friendship between China and Japan?

Answer: We have been making vigorous efforts to reduce the amount of NPLs for the State-owned commercial banks. We set up four asset management companies which have shifted 1.4 trillion yuan (US$169 billion) of bad loans from the commercial banks.

But as far as the amount of non-performing loans (NPLs) troubling the four State-owned commercial banks are concerned, if we use the four-category classification criteria, then the ratio of NPLs stands at 21.4 per cent. If we use the five-grade classification criteria, which is the common international practice, then the ratio is as high as about 25 per cent, and losses, actually, are quite a considerable percentage of the NPLs.

To improve their operation, it is necessary to give them policy support, to increase their equity and to help them get rid of the non-performing assets. Over the past five years, through the issue of special treasury bonds, we have increased their equity by 270 billion yuan (US$32 billion). And as I said earlier, we helped them get rid of 1.4 trillion yuan (US$169 billion) NPLs. However, the fundamental solution still lies in reform.

The key is to ensure corporate governance and to set up a modern corporate financial system. And the conditions must be created to turn them into shareholding banks.

As for the China-Japan relationship, I wish to make the following comments.

China and Japan are close neighbours separated by a strip of water, and have had over 2,000 years of friendly exchanges, except that in modern times the relationship suffered tremendous twists and turns.

A proper view and handling of Japan's past aggression against China has always served as the political basis of the growth of bilateral ties.

We hope the Japanese Government will abide by the three documents on the normalization of relationship, and use history as a mirror and look to the future.

We hope to develop relations with Japan in all areas, including in the field of high-level visits.

As for myself, I hope my visit can take place in an appropriate atmosphere.

Question: We would like to know what is your view on how we can bring about a sound interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. In the past we have not heard much directly from you on your perspective on the question of Taiwan. So we would like to know what is your perspective about Taiwan. And what will be the major items on the agenda of the new government concerning work on Taiwan affairs? What is your comment and what expectation do you have on the question of Taiwan?

Answer: Through you, I would like to extend my best regards towards our Taiwan compatriots. The achievement of peaceful reunification is the common aspiration of all Chinese people, including our Taiwan compatriots.

When Taiwan is mentioned, lots of feelings well up. I cannot help thinking of the late Mr Yu You-jen, a founding member of Kuomintang and a participant in the Revolution of 1911. He wrote a poem to express his grief over national division.

He wrote such a poem:

Bury me on the highest mountain top,

So that I can get a sight of my mainland.

Mainland, I see none,

Tears of sorrow cascade.

Bury me on the highest mountain top,

So that I can get a glimpse of my hometown.

Hometown, I see none,

But lives forever in my mind

The lofty sky is deeply blue,

The vast wilderness not seen through.

All boundless universe, will you hear me,

And this elegy of the nation.

What a touching poem he has written, which strikes a chord in the sentiments of all the Chinese people.

The Chinese Government will continue to unswervingly pursue the policy of peaceful reunification on the basis of "one country, two systemsí▒. We will seek an early resumption of dialogue and negotiation between the two sides on the basis of the one-China principle. We are against Taiwan independence. We oppose Taiwan independence. We will continue to support more economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. We want to bring about an early achievement of the three direct links. We hope to make bigger progress in the process towards peaceful reunification.

Question: I hear that in the latter half of this year you are going to pay a visit to Russia and have talks with your counterpart. Will there be any change in the relationship between China and Russia? What is your comment on the Shanghai Co-operation Organization?

Answer: China and Russia share a common border of 4,000 kilometres. It has been the fundamental interest of our two peoples to develop good neighbourly and friendly relations. The relationship of strategic co-operation and partnership between us has seen further development in recent years and enjoyed a favorable momentum of growth. The Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Co-operation, which was signed recently, has laid a legal foundation for the long-term steady growth of such a relationship. Long-term plans have already been mapped out for the exchanges between the leaders of the two countries and for the development of our friendship in various fields between our two countries. So I am sure in the future our relationship will continue to grow steadily. We will continue to give play to the role of Shanghai Co-operation Organization and we will step up consultation among the members of this organization on major international issues, so as to make China's due contribution to the maintenance of world peace and promotion of common development.

Question: Could I have your comment on the latest development on the question of Iraq?

Answer: As premier of this large country with 1.3 billion people, what I care most about is the stability and development of the country. And I know so well the stability and development of this country have not been easy to come by.

The end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s saw a highly volatile international situation. The Soviet Union disintegrated, Eastern Europe changed dramatically, and political turbulence also occurred in China. The Party and the government relied firmly on the people, took resolute measures and stabilized the domestic situation. And we also further advanced our reform, opening-up and built socialism with Chinese characteristics. The tremendous achievements we have scored over the past 13 years have fully proved that stability is of vital importance.

On the question of Iraq, China's position has been consistent, and we adopt a responsible position. China stands for a peaceful settlement of the Iraqi issue within the UN framework through political means. Every effort should be made to avoid war. UN resolution 1441 must be comprehensively and effectively implemented. Inspection work should continue. At the same time, China holds the view that the Iraqi Government should strictly and effectively abide by the relevant UN resolutions. We believe the Iraqi side should be active in co-operating with the UN agencies to make the work of inspection a success and to destroy all weapons of mass destruction. Now, with regard to the situation in Iraq, the arrow has already been placed on the bow. It is a touch-and-go situation. However, so long as there is still one gleamer of hope, we will not give up our efforts for a peaceful and political settlement.

Question: The rural fee-to-tax reform will be expanded across the country this year. You once said that China would definitely be able to break the vicious cycle of the law of Huang Zongxi, which means in history, tax reform aimed at reducing farmersí» burden always ended up exacerbating their burden. My question is how can the current tax-for-fee reform break such a vicious circle?

Answer: I have already talked a lot about this subject. So here I only want to make two points. First, the essence of this reform is to reform the certain links in the rural superstructure that do not serve the development of productive forces. The most important work is to downsize the institutions. In the Book of Learning in China it talked about the way to accumulate wealth. There are many people who produce, there are very few people who consume. And people who work very hard to produce more financial wealth try to be economical when they spend. In this way wealth is accumulated. However, the situation today in the countryside is just the opposite. There are very few who produce, while there are a lot who consume. And people do not work very hard to create more financial resources. But on the contrary, they order around the sense as much as they wish. For instance, in a county with a population of only 120,000 to 130,000 people, 5,700 people live on tax payersí» money, that is on the government payroll.

So I think to find a fundamental way to reduce the burden of farmers we need to cut down the size of institutional functionaries and to sack the people who are not necessary. At the same time, we must increase financial support to the countryside. Our objective is that we want to ensure that the farmers are not asked to pay taxes that they are not entitled to pay. But I know it might take some time. This year we have adopted a new policy. For the additional financial resources earmarked for the undertaking of science and technology, education, culture, health care will mainly find their way to the countryside.

Question: Mr Premier I would like to ask you to comment on the ultimatum the US president yesterday issued to the Iraqi President. Do you agree that it is a strong violation of international law and the sovereignty of the state? Can you comment on the Chinese policy on the Middle East?

Answer: The Middle East has always been the focus of attention not only of the Chinese people but people of all other countries. Of course, the headline news now is the situation in Iraq and the problem between Palestine and Israel. I have taken note of the address by President Bush which he delivered at nine o'clock this morning Beijing time. China's position is a clear-cut one. We insist on continued efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the question of Iraq through political means. In our view, UN resolution 1441 is consistent with the principles of the UN Charter. Therefore, all countries should adhere to this resolution.

We have always been deeply worried and concerned about the conflict between Palestine and Israel. We sincerely hope that their conflict can be resolved peacefully through political dialogue between the two sides. We hope the two sides can co-ordinate their efforts with the co-ordination efforts from various sides in the international community and comply with the relevant UN resolution including the principle of land for peace. The flame of war is the last thing we wish to see in the Middle East. A peaceful and stable Middle East will serve the world well.

Question: Do you have any plan to allow the establishment of private banks? And when are you going to fully liberalize the exchange rate regime? When would you let the State-owned commercial banks transfer a large percentage of their non-performing loans to the four asset management companies?

Answer: Your question reminds me of my visit to Bank of England in the year 2000, the central bank of the United Kingdom. I discovered that the building of the central bank of UK has many gates or doors but very small windows. Through the visit, I have gained more knowledge about the history of the development of the financial sector in the United Kingdom over hundreds of years.

In comparison, China only has a history of more than 10 years from the day when banks were regarded as cashiers of the government to the objective to turn banks into financial institutions in the real sense. Actually China has already had shareholding banks which mainly are financed by funds from the social sectors. For instance, the Minsheng Bank. As we improve our regulatory capability, inevitably there will be many different forms of ownership in the financial institutions in China. But of course this will take quite some time before that happens.

Question: According to people who know you well, you believe in facts and statistics. Could you tell me what are the figures about China's current situation that satisfy you most and that worry you most? What is their significance? Could you tell us what do you expect China to be like in five years?

Answer: The former Swiss Ambassador to China once said my brain was like a computer. Indeed, many statistics are stored in my brain. Some make me happy, some make me worried. Some figures are very encouraging to me and make me happy. For instance, since the beginning of reform and opening up, China has averaged an annual increase rate of gross domestic product (GDP) at over 9 per cent. In the recent five years, although there was the financial crisis in Asia, our GDP still maintained a growth rate at 7.7 per cent annually. And last year, the GDP grew at a rate of 8 per cent. And also I am very happy about the figure relating to the size of foreign exchange reserves. The amount is US$300 billion.

There are some figures maybe the correspondents do not know so well. For instance, China has a workforce of over 740 million people, but for the developed economies, European countries and America combined, their workforce stands at 430 million. Every year, we have an additional 10 million new workforce and the number of laid-off and unemployed workers stands at about 14 million. The number of migrant workers who seek job opportunities in cities normally caps around 120 million.

China is under tremendous pressure over employment. Our population is 1.3 billion, out of which 900 million are farmers in the countryside. More than 30 million farmers are still living under the poverty line. Even for those who have been lifted above the poverty line, their lives are at a low level. Per capita income for them is only 625 yuan (US$75). If we substitute the benchmark for the poverty line with an increase of 200 yuan (US$24), then the total poor population will be 90 million. The gap between China's East and China's West is very, very wide, maybe I can offer you some figures to help you understand the concept even better. The GDP from five to six provinces in the coastal areas accounted for more than half of China's total GDP.

A number of problems have been reflected, as I figured. We need to work to solve problems in the countryside and for poverty-stricken farmers. We need to solve problems for the laid-off and unemployed workers by creating job opportunities. We should also settle the problem of poverty as well as the gap between the east and west. Therefore, it is not an easy job at all to be a good premier.

If you ask about my feelings now, I feel that the responsibility on my shoulders is extremely great.

Question: You spoke of the experience of war in your childhood, I suppose you also went through the "cultural revolution?(1966-76) when you were in your 20s. How did these experiences influence the way you deal with China's domestic and foreign affairs problems? Particularly on Iraq, does that make you an anti-war activist? Do you approve of or oppose the looming war in Iraq?

Answer: More than 50 years have passed since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. We had a lot of glorious successes, we also suffered setbacks and the "cultural revolutioní▒ was one such major setback.

But I always firmly believe that socialism is like a big ocean. And since it is an ocean, it will never dry up. All rivers enter the ocean. So long as we absorb and emulate all the fine results of human civilization, we will be able to consolidate and improve socialism. Certainly it will last for a long time. It will last a hundred, or even hundreds, of years.

On the question of Iraq, I already said that China stands by its principles and China's position is formed in accordance with the need of peace and development throughout the world and also in accordance with China's own fundamental interests.

China maintains that Iraq should destroy weapons of mass destruction thoroughly.

At the same time, we hope for a political settlement with peaceful means to avoid the adverse impact of the war on the Middle East and the world as a whole.

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