China does not seek hegemony now,nor will it seek hegemony even after it became powerful in the future, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a press conference Sunday in Beijing.
China has a history of 5,000 years with both glorious achievements and humiliating sufferings, and the rise of China has been the dream of generations of Chinese, Wen said.
China will take full advantage of the good opportunity of world peace to develop itself and at the same time safeguard world peace with its development.
The premier said China's rise will be based on its own strength and self reliance, as well as the vast domestic market, abundant human resources and abundant natural resources.
Noting China's rise could not be achieved without the rest of the world, Wen said the country must always maintain its open policy and always develop economic and trade exchanges with all friendly countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefits.
China's rise, which would require a lot time and probably efforts of several generations, will not stand in the way of any other country, nor pose threat to any other country, nor at the cost of any other country, Wen said.
"China does not seek hegemony now, nor will it seek hegemony even after it became powerful," Wen said.
Premier Wen said the referendum scheduled for March 20 by the Taiwan authorities under the pretext of democracy poses a threat to stability across the Taiwan Straits, and challenges the universally acknowledged one-China principle.
The premier said he appreciated the international opposition to the referendum, and the open statement on the one-China principle made by the international community, including the United States, is conducive to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.
"I hope the United States and other countries would honor their commitment to the one-China principle, and make due contribution to maintaining stability across the Taiwan Straits and to China's peaceful reunification," Wen said at a press conference after the closing of the national legislature's annual session.
The Taiwan issue, left over from China's civil war, is the internal affairs of China, and will eventually be resolved by the Chinese people on their own, said the premier.
China has sovereignty over Taiwan, which has been recognized by the international community, he said.
Continuous support to HK
Premier Wen said that the central government will do everything conducive to the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and to the common development of Hong Kong and the inland of China.
"Our principle is that whatever is conducive to the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, to the common development of Hong Kong and the inland, we will actively do it and give our full support to it," he said when answering a question from Hong Kong press.
The premier said the central government holds an active attitude toward the upcoming issuance of 20 billion Hong Kong dollars of bonds in Hong Kong.
The premier attended a ceremony last June in Hong Kong where the agreement on the Mainland-Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) was signed.
Wen reiterated that the central government will unsparingly uphold the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy as well as the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
The premier hoped that Hong Kong residents can be more united and work together for a better future.
"I sincerely hope that Hong Kong residents can take into consideration the broad situation of the long-term prosperity and stability as well as the long-term and fundamental interests of Hong Kong residents, be united and work together with firm determination for a better future of Hong Kong," he said.
Chinese economy at critical juncture
The Chinese government is now facing a test no less severe than that posed by the SARS epidemic last year, said the Chinese premier.
The Chinese economy developed rapidly and demonstrated " more dynamism" last year. But some deep-seated problems in the country's economic structure remained unsolved while new problems such as excessive investment scale, decreasing grain output and an "obvious trend of rising prices" kept cropping up, said the premier.
These problems exposed the Chinese government to a test "no less severe" than that posed by last year's SARS epidemic and put China's economy at a "critical juncture", commented Wen.
If the problems are properly handled, the "big ship of the Chinese economy" will move forward smoothly or "setbacks" will be "inevitable", said Wen.
State commercial banks face last-ditch battle
In recent years, the state-owned commercial banks have made some progress, but problems are numerous.
When answering a question from a journalist of the South China Morning Post, Wen said the biggest problem existing in China's banking system is that the ratio of non-performing loans (NPL) is high, which has reached nearly two trillion yuan, accounting for 20 percent of the total.
He also said that nowadays the state-owned banks do not perform very well. The fundamental reasons lie in institution and mechanism.
The central government has made a decisive move on adopting a share-holding reform in Bank of China (BOC) and China Construction Bank (CCB) and has injected 45 billion US dollars of capital in the banks. The measures have received generally positive response from home and abroad.
"I want to make clear that the banking reform we took this time is to really push our state-owned commercial banks to be the real modern commercial banks," he pointed out.
He said the leadership of the two banks must take measures to ensure the safety of the capitals injected by the state, at the same time shoulder the responsibility of lowering the NPL ratio.
He also said the management and the competence of the staff inside the state-owned banks is key to the success of the banking reform.
"This is our last-ditch battle. We could not afford any failure. We must take decisive measures to ensure a successful reform," he stressed.
The Premier also pledged that his government will stand new challenges and live up to the expectations of the people.
The premier called the year 2003 an extraordinary year as China won an "important victory" over the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome") and scored "obvious achievements" in its economic development. But the achievements are only a reflection of the past, he said.
"A wise nation is one good at learning, especially the one that is good at learning from difficulties," Wen acknowledged. The most crucial are the experience, lessons and revelation they have brought about instead of achievements.
This year's goal is to maintain a balanced, relatively-fast economic growth, the premier said. The most difficult problems involved agriculture, rural areas and farmers, and what he cares most are matters pertaining to people's interests.
The Chinese premier pledged to continue reform, innovation and forging ahead courageously.