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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 08:21, March 15, 2006
Chinese premier addresses media on major issues
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The following is the detailed excerpts from Premier Wen Jiabao's press conference at the conclusion of the fourth session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday.

Premier Wen Jiabao's opening remarks:

Today, I see the journalists, and I think you belong to the minority compared with the majority who are now watching this conference outside the Great Hall of the People. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words to the general public.

I can see that the general public have shown a keen interest in the proceedings of the two sessions, to the deputies, the members, the various news media, as well as to the Internet. The general public have made their comments and proposals on the work of the government. And I can see that on people.com.cn and Xinhua News Agency's website, as well as the Sohu and Sina portals and the website of CCTV, there are the comments and proposals as well as questions asked by people who surf the Internet, in their hundreds of thousands.

And some of the people who surf the Internet even ask questions directly to me, the premier of the country. I could sense the people's expectations from these comments and proposals. I could also see the confidence and power of the general public from those comments. Our country and our nation now stand at a new historical turning point.

In terms of new tasks, we need to be even more sober-minded. We need to remain firmly on the right course, and we need to work even harder. By keeping an even more sober mind, I mean that we need to realize that the achievements we have scored so far are only the very first step in our modernization drive. The road ahead will be even longer and more arduous. We need to be cautious and prudent, especially when things are improving. To think about where danger looms will ensure our security; to think about why chaos occurs will ensure our peace; and to think about why a country falls will ensure our survival.

On staying firmer on the right course, I mean we need to consistently and unswervingly press ahead with reform and opening up. We need to continue to adhere to the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Although there will be difficulties on our way ahead, we cannot stop. Retrogression or back-peddling offers no way out.

On working even harder, I mean we need to be prepared for all kinds of difficulties and risks. Some of them may be predictable, and others may not. Our nation has constantly improved itself and remained a vibrant nation. The reason for this is that we have a resilient, unyielding and industrious spirit. We must remain fully prepared for a long-term and hard struggle. Thank you.

Q: I would like to ask why it is necessary to specially set forth the policy of building a new socialist countryside. What is the relationship between the policy of building a new socialist countryside and the previous and consistent policies of the central authorities towards rural areas?

A: The issues concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers are fundamental ones bearing on the overall interests of China's modernization drive. To answer this question, I would like to share with you our three major considerations in establishing the policy of building a new socialist countryside.

In terms of building a new socialist countryside, we mean to place agricultural and rural work more prominently on our modernization agenda. And also, we believe that we need to introduce a policy to make industries nurture the development of agriculture, and make cities support the development of rural areas.

This move will facilitate our efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in the countryside and modernize China's agricultural sector. This is a significant step in terms of the overall modernization of the country. I would also like to say that we need to strengthen the development of the countryside and agriculture. This is a key and very significant step because if we can take this step, it will go a long way towards boosting domestic demand and consumption in the country. And that will certainly place China's economy and society on a more solid footing.

In modernizing China's agriculture sector, we need to start with the improvement of modern agricultural capacity as well as overall agricultural capacity. The very reason why we focus on the development of infrastructure and all kinds of social programmes in China's countryside is to improve Chinese farmers' living and working conditions.

To build a new socialist countryside, we must adhere to the following two basic principles. First, we need to respect the democratic rights of farmers, especially their right to independently farm their contracted land. This means that we need to respect the will of the people in rural areas. And we need to refrain from coercion or using administrative means. Second, we need to deliver tangible benefits to farmers. We need to make a reality of our goal of improving farmers' material and cultural existence. And we need to use this as a yardstick to measure our progress and performance. We need to place emphasis on practical results rather than go in for formalism.

Q: I would like to know that whether the recent moves of the Taiwan authorities have reached the bottom line of the mainland's Taiwan policy. Whether the mainland remains ready or will have contacts with the ruling party in Taiwan, and what kind of new adjustments or changes will be made to the mainland's policies and positions towards Taiwan? What kind of new measures will the mainland take this year to develop cross-Straits relations?

A: An old Chinese saying says that a just cause enjoys abundant support, while an unjust one finds little support. The leader of the Taiwan authorities tries to block the opening of the three direct links across the Taiwan Straits, and has taken measures to restrict the development of cross-Straits economic ties and trade. This does no good to Taiwan's economic development, and it undermines the interests of people in Taiwan.

The leader of the Taiwan authorities keeps making trouble, creating disputes within the island and creating tensions across the Taiwan Straits. The leader of the Taiwan authorities is forgetting his own roots and attempts to sever the blood ties of the Chinese nation and the ties of kinship between compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

Such acts by the leader of the Taiwan authorities not only run counter to the general trends of peace, stability and seeking mutually beneficial results across the Taiwan Straits, but also go against the general aspirations of the entire Chinese people, including our Taiwan compatriots. At the end of the day, the leader of the Taiwan authorities will lose all popular support for his unjust cause.

The leader of the Taiwan authorities decided to cease the operation of the National Unification Council and cease the application of the National Unification Guidelines. He was brazenly provocative over the one-China principle, and seriously undermined peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. His moves are extremely adventurous, dangerous and deceptive.

We need to stay alert to the fact that they are now intensifying their efforts to pursue secessionist activities and so-called Taiwan independence. They are also going all out to pursue their goal of so-called de jure Taiwan independence through the so-called constitutional re-engineering.

We are now closely following the ongoing developments and are fully prepared for all eventualities.

Our commitment to the one-China principle has been consistent and clear. That is to say, there is only one China in the world. Both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to the one and the same China. China's sovereignty and territorial integrity should always be intact.

On the basis of the one-China principle, we maintain that the two sides of the Taiwan Straits need to have consultations and negotiations. And consultations and negotiations will be conducted entirely on an equal footing. There is no question of one side swallowing up the other.

I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate that no matter whatever party affiliations they may have, no matter who they are, no matter what they said or did in the past, as long as they are committed to the one-China principle, we are ready to have dialogue and negotiations with them, even including those people from the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan. As long as that party is willing to give up its platform for the so-called Taiwan independence, we are willing and ready to make positive responses to their moves and we are willing to have contacts and consultations with them.

We will never give up our efforts for peaceful reunification. At the same time, we will never waiver in our opposition to secessionist activities for so-called Taiwan independence. We will by no means allow Taiwan to be separated from the motherland.

Q: What is the relationship between the development of Hong Kong and the development of the mainland according to the 11th Five-Year Plan? What is the role of Hong Kong's development in China's overall political and economic development? At the end of September last year, your administration's terms of office passed the halfway mark. We would like to know that what achievements you can take joy at most, what kind of things have moved you most, and what kind of things have saddened you most?

A: It has been nine years since Hong Kong's return to the motherland. We can see that the capitalist system in Hong Kong remains unchanged. The laws and regulations in Hong Kong remain basically unchanged. The freedom and rights of people in Hong Kong are duly protected. Hong Kong, as it stands now, is the world's freest and most open economy. Hong Kong is also the world's shipping, financial and trade centre. These assets are not only favourable factors contributing to Hong Kong's development, but also play an important and irreplaceable role in developing the Chinese mainland. For the past more than twenty years, we have already seen Hong Kong becoming the fourth largest trading partner of the mainland and its biggest source of overseas direct investment. I believe, with the implementation of the 11th Five-Year Plan, more room will be given to Hong Kong to play a greater role in this process.

Over the past few years, the mainland and Hong Kong have forged a closer economic partnership through CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement).

Our government is the government of the people. I myself am a son of the Chinese people. All the achievements we have scored are due to the efforts of the Chinese people. As for what touches me most, that would be the popular support for the government. Such support can be expressed in terms of encouragement or critical opinions from the general public. Such encouragement and critical opinions are always rendered with warmth and consistent support for the government. As for what saddens me most, I think for the past three years, I have not been able to find better solutions to the matters that most interest the general public. For example, inadequate and overly expensive medical services, education services, the housing problem, as well as the safety problem.

Q: On the issue of the countryside, Chinese farmers need more complete and stronger property rights so they can realize the value of their land and resist illegal confiscation. What new policies do you have in consideration on this area?

A: The core issue concerning Chinese farmers falls on the land issue. China's reform actually started in the countryside. The most important policy we have adopted is the introduction of a household responsibility system. According to this system, land belongs to the collective entity of the villages, and at the same time, the right to production and farming belongs to the farmers. This is a major feature and major asset in China's countryside. We also make it clear that we will guarantee the long-term right to independent farming for the farmers.

Given China's conditions, we must exercise and enforce the strictest possible arable land protection system in the country. We must protect farmers' rights to independent farming on their contracted land, and we must give adequate and due compensation to the farmers whose land is seized. We believe that the land transfer revenues should be mainly paid to the farmers affected. We must also follow the laws and regulations and mete out punishment against those who breach the laws and regulations and illicitly seize the land of the farmers.

Q: How will you try to convince people that China will become a responsible player in the international system?

A: China's commitment to peaceful development is determined by China's traditional cultural heritage, development needs and national interests. China is already a responsible big country.

Through China's reform and development, we have successfully resolved the problem of feeding 1.3 billion people in the world, we have successfully lifted over 200 million people out of poverty. China's development and stability itself constitutes a big contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.

Number 2, through China's own development and practice in this regard, we have successfully explored a road towards scientific development. That is to say in China's development, we'll focus also on the conservation of resources and protection of the natural environment.

Number 3, China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. The ideology is not used as a criteria to define friends or foes. We will not enter into an alliance with any country or country blocks.

Number 4, China pursues a good-neighbourly and friendly foreign policy in developing relations with its neighbours featuring developing good-neighbourly ties and partnerships with its neighbours.

Number 5, China takes an active part and safeguards the international system. We have already joined over 100 international organizations and acceded or signed nearly 300 international treaties.

Number 6, China stands as a strong force for international peace and stability on such major regional and international issues bearing on peace, such as the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and Iranian nuclear issue. As for the non-traditional security threats as well as the current major natural disasters in the world, China has also adopted a co-operative step.

Number 7, China stands firmly against terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Number 8, after China's accession to the WTO, China has conscientiously honoured its commitments upon the accession.

Number 9, although China itself is a developing country, it has worked actively to help others and itself to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. We have cancelled debt worth about 20 billion RMB (US$2.5 billion) for 44 underdeveloped countries in the world. In the next three years, we are going to offer concessional loans worth about US$10 billion to some underdeveloped countries. I'd also like to add that China's assistance has no strings attached.

Number 10, China's military policy is for self-defence and defensive in nature. The limited increase in China's defence spending is completely for the purpose of improving the facilities and conditions of our men and women in uniforms, and improve the self-defence capabilities of our armed forces.

Even when one day China becomes stronger, China will not interfere in others' internal affairs, or have adverse impact on others. China will not seek hegemony in the world. Rather China will play its due role and discharge its due responsibilities.

Q: Would you explain your government's position on the issue of Internet censorship in China? And are you satisfied with the way your policy, your government policy in this regard, is being portrayed for the world at large?

A: China's Internet has been developing very rapidly all along. As things stand now, there are over 100 million people in the country who have access to the Internet. The Chinese Government has all along been supportive of the development and extensive application of the Internet.

The Chinese Government should subject itself to the democratic supervision of the general public, including the efforts that we should make to extensively solicit views from people who surf the Internet. All kinds of courses and programmes will have smooth development only when everyone takes up his or her responsibility.

The Chinese Constitution has provided that every citizen in this country has the right and freedom to use information on the Internet. At the same time, every citizen in the country should unconsciously and spontaneously abide by the law and order in order to safeguard the national, social and collective interests.

China exercises its management over the Internet according to law, and at the same time we also maintain that the industries in the Internet business should exercise more self-discipline and exercise self-management in disputes. The practice of China in the Internet management is also consistent with the established international practice. This being said, we should still pay much attention and attach great importance to drawing upon the international experience in managing the Internet.

The websites should be able to convey the right message and information. The websites should refrain from misleading the public or exerting an adverse impact on social and public order.

Q: If the next Japanese prime minister continues to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, what kind of measures will the Chinese Government take. Will it be possible for China to agree to resume the meetings between high-level officials of the two countries? And, looking at 2006, what are the factors or elements that may have an impact on the development and improvement of the China-Japan relationship?

A: Indeed, the China-Japan relationship has run into many difficulties, which we did not hope to see. The reasons behind these difficulties have nothing to do with China or anything to do with the Japanese people. They have to do with the fact that the leader of Japan continues to visit the shrine where the class-A war criminals are honoured on various occasions. This has extremely offended the Chinese people and people in the rest of Asia. Pending a solution to this issue, the China-Japan relationship could hardly develop in a smooth manner.

As China and Japan are close neighbours, we have an unswerving policy of developing friendship with Japan that will be passed on from generation to generation. To further the China-Japan relations, we must follow the spirit and principle of taking history as a mirror to guide the future growth of our relations and the three Sino-Japanese political documents signed since the establishment of diplomatic ties. In order to facilitate the growth of the China-Japan relationship, I would like to take the opportunity to stress the following three points.

First, we need to continue the strategic dialogue between the two governments in order to remove the obstacles that affect the China-Japan relationship.

Second, we need to strengthen and increase people-to-people exchanges in order to build mutual understanding and trust.

Third, we need to stabilize and develop the economic relations and trade between the two countries, and further expand the mutually beneficial co-operation for win-win results.

Q: I have a question on the environmental pollution. I have this idea that no matter what kind of achievements you can score in terms of industrial development, if the water in the cities of the country is no longer suitable for drinking, probably your achievements at the end of the term of office will be compromised.

A: You touched upon a very important issue.

It is true that we are now faced with the very serious problem of environmental pollution and this is a major problem plaguing China's development. Even till this day, we fail to see a proper solution to this problem. Talking about the 10th Five-Year Plan, I can tell you that we have been able to meet the original goals in most of the categories and at the same time to be honest with you, we fail to deliver on the targets concerning environmental protection.

We have stressed the importance of taking remedies and measures after polluting the environment on various occasions and we also stressed the importance of leaving verdant mountains and clear water to the future generations in this country. This is not enough in itself. What is important is that we need to take practical and forceful measures to follow up on these goals. I think we need to take measures on the following areas:

First, in formulating development goals, we should not only keep our eyes on the economic growth rate alone. We need see more the importance of energy conservation and protection of natural environment.

Second, we must strictly enforce our industrial policies especially in the development of infrastructure and in the approval of market access to enterprises. We must not give the green light to the enterprises and infrastructure projects that waste resources and pollute the environment.

Third, we need to step up our efforts in carrying out the special environmental and ecological campaign and projects in environmental protection and resource conservation. Particularly, we need to pay attention to the protection of major waters, air and non-point pollution on the land.

Fourth, we need to enforce the law strictly. To protect the environment according to the law holds the key to the solution of the problem. This is also among the most difficult part of the job. We need to close down the enterprises that waste energy and pollute the environment. We also need to hold those entities, enterprises as well as individuals accountable for the pollution accidents and incidents that pollute the environment and cause major losses to the people and society.

Q: In the past three years we have found that more and more restrictive measures have been taken against the freedom of speech, and particularly the freedom of the speech on the Internet in this country. We have also noted that more violence has been used by the public security organs in dealing with the protesting farmers who have lost their land due to the land seizures. We'd like to know, do you think such a kind of approach or practice is appropriate? I'd also like to know that in the past few years there are quite of a number of major coal mine accidents in this country. Many people believe that the only way out in this context is to allow the workers in the country to organize their own trade unions instead of joining the trade unions that are set up by the companies where they work for. I'd like to know when the Chinese Government will allow the workers to establish independent trade unions?

A: Every citizen in this country has the freedom of speech and freedom of publishing. At the same time, every citizen in this country needs to abide by the laws and safeguard the national and social interests. China is now in a period of a rapid economic growth. At the same time this is also a period with a very high concentration of all kinds of acute problems. The reasons behind the salient problems are multi-faceted. A very important reason is that in some localities, there are authorities who breach the laws and regulations and violate the rights and interests of the general public. In this context we need to learn how to properly deal with the conflicts of interests and social problems in the new context. We also need to stress the following points:

First, we need to take forceful and strong measures to protect the interests of the general public that has directly to do with people's lives. We need to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of our people according to law.

Second, we also need to educate and properly guide the general public so that they can more and more realize that their legitimate concerns need to be expressed through legal channels and in lawful formats.

It is true in some industries and in some localities there have been a number of major or sometimes even extraordinary workplace safety accidents. We are greatly saddened by the occurrence of those accidents.

In my government's work report, we have already spelt out various measures of how we are going to strengthen workplace safety. I'd like to stress here that we need to strengthen the workplace safety, training and education among the staff in those enterprises. I think the trade unions at the various levels should and can play their role in safeguarding the interests of the public and discharging their responsibilities in work place safety. The trade unions of China are workers' own organizations. They are not established by any employer.

Q: What are the considerations of the Chinese Government behind the major resolve to further extend education in the country. And how will the Chinese government ensure the implementation of these goals.

A: Education is the cornerstone of a modernized country. At the end of the day, a country's development will rely on the improvement of the competence of its population. We've already established the education system throughout the country that focuses on the universalization and consolidation of compulsory education, the vigorous development of occupational education, and the improvement of higher education.

I'd like to take the opportunity to stress the importance of education towards the general public. Most of the people in this world are ordinary people belonging to the general public. I think the competence of the general public has the direct bearing on the overall competence of the country. China is a country with a population of 1.3 billion. And 900 million of the Chinese people live in the countryside. So we have an even bigger proportion of our people receiving ordinary education.

The very reason of why we put much emphasis on the development of compulsory education and occupational education is that we would like to make that education oriented to the general public so that everyone in this country can enjoy education.

Q: We know that the State-owned commercial banks in this country have begun to sell some of their shares to foreign partners. There are people who are quite critical about this move and in their view this is tantamount to sending the State-owned assets to foreigners and the assets were sold to foreigners at too low a price. How would you respond to such critical opinion?

A: The goal in reforming the State-owned commercial banks is to establish a modern commercial banking system in this country. We also believe that we need to explore the various and multiple formats of realizing public ownership. The shareholding system is an effective format of realizing public ownership. However, introduction of the share holding system is not the objective in itself, the objective is to improve the corporate government's structure and to learn and draw upon the advanced managerial experience and expertise from others so that we can further improve the management and efficiency of State-owned commercial banks.

In reforming the State-owned commercial banks we need to follow the following two principles:

First, the State must take a dominant controlling share in the State-owned commercial banks in order to keep the economic lifeline of the country in state's hands and fending off financial risks.

Second, we need to strengthen and improve the whole process management in this reform. We need to step up internal control, regulation and supervision so as to prevent the stripping of State-owned assets.

Q: Our two countries (India and China) are jointly celebrating 2006 as the Year of India-China Friendship. Can you kindly express your views on how we can enhance our strategic relations, mutual trust and friendship while resolving these differences, especially on the boundary issues?

A: A very important item on the agenda of this friendship year is to increase the culture exchanges between our two countries featured by the classic works and cultural traditions of India and China.

I have a belief is when China and India are strong enough to fully bring out their best, that will usher in a true Asian century. I hope by then our fraternal and friendly relations will still be vibrant and strong and will remain dear to the hearts of two oriental nations.

Q:Will we expect a major or substantial revaluation of the Chinese currency this year?

A: We have established a new RMB exchange rate regime and we will further build this system, strengthen the exchange rate system and we will expand the foreign exchange market and allow more flexibility and fluctuation of the Chinese currency. And we think, according to the current exchange rate regimes of Chinese currency based on market changes, there is room and the capacity for the RMB to fluctuate either upward or downward on its own. It is no longer necessary for us to take one of the administrative means to affect the fluctuation of the RMB exchange rate either upward or downward. There will be no more surprises.


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