Li Keqiang spearheads China's tough reforms

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Calling reform "the biggest dividend for China," Vice Premier Li Keqiang has used different occasions to facilitate reforms since being re-elected in mid-November as a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

File photo taken on April 28, 2012 shows Li Keqiang delivers a speech at Moscow State University in Moscow, capital of Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

File photo taken on April 28, 2012 shows Li Keqiang delivers a speech at Moscow State University in Moscow, capital of Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

"Reform is like rowing upstream. Failing to advance means falling back," he said at a symposium on advancing comprehensive reforms.

"Those who refuse to reform may not make mistakes, but they will be blamed for not assuming their historical responsibility," he said.

China's new wave of reform has begun with curbing bureaucracy in meetings. When presiding over meetings, Li forbids officials to read prepared speeches, encourages them to take the floor freely and asks incisive and persistent questions to get to the bottom of matters.

Li has also emphasized that only reform can improve Chinese people's living standards and that future reforms must ensure equal rights and opportunities for the people and ensure that everybody adheres to the rules.

Li first joined the highest leading body of the CPC five years ago at the First Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee. A few months later, he became China's youngest vice premier in nearly 20 years.

Li has garnered much attention by tackling complex reforms over the past five years, during which time China has faced multiple challenges, including the deadly Wenchuan earthquake and the international financial crisis.

Macroeconomic adjustment was the first challenge the vice premier had to face in 2008.

When there was no agreement on a proper way to manage the repercussions of the international financial crisis, Li asked the State Council's fiscal and economic planning departments to adopt a proactive fiscal policy with the precondition of keeping the deficit below 3 percent.

The decision gave the Chinese economy a boost that was strong enough to avoid complications such as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the "fiscal cliff" in the United States.

Li also chaired more than 40 meetings to deliberate on and make arrangements for an affordable housing program for the needy, which is the biggest of its kind in China and has helped boost domestic consumption amid a slowing world economy.

Over the past few years, China's fiscal spending on affordable housing construction has reached a record high. With 17 million government-subsidized apartments already built, nearly 100 million Chinese have moved into comfortable, high-quality homes, and another 13 million apartments are currently under construction or being renovated.

Another reform that has thrust Li into a widening spotlight relates to medical and health care services, a worldwide challenge.

After Li took over as head of the State Council's leading group for medical and health care reform, the country quickly set a goal of turning medical and health care into a basic public service accessible to all, taking a progressive approach to prioritizing the basic needs of the people and the need for institutional improvement.

The central government has issued 14 documents to inspire local experiments since 2009. All relevant tasks are being implemented efficiently.

Under this regimen, the government has built the world's largest medical care system in more than three years, effectively easing public concern in this area.

Li was also credited with seizing the opportunity presented by the 2008 financial crisis to propel complex fuel tax reforms involving multiple stakeholders.

The initiative has helped eliminate redundant fuel fees, inspired energy conservation and emission reduction, improved the refined oil pricing system and accumulated experience for future reforms.

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