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We'll forge ahead with reforms: Hu
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The nation will press forward with the reform and opening-up drive and socialist system, which in the past 30 years transformed its economy into the world's fourth-largest, President Hu Jintao said on Thursday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao eulogized here Thursday the nationwide reform adopted by the Communist Party of China (CPC) for the past three decades

Chinese President Hu Jintao eulogized Thursday the nationwide reform adopted by the Communist Party of China (CPC) for the past three decades.

In a nationally-televised speech celebrating 30 years of reform policies, Hu hailed the country's rise from poverty to one of the world's biggest economies and a major political power.

"The significant changes prove that the direction and path of reform and opening-up are completely correct," Hu told an audience of more than 6,000 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"Standing still and regressing will lead only to a dead end."

Hu said the country must focus on economic growth and social stability, adding that China should learn from the best of political civilization of human society and not blindly copy the model of Western political institutions.

Without stability, we can do nothing, and can lose what has been achieved.

"We must adhere to the Party's leadership and continue developing socialism with Chinese characteristics."

He made the remarks on the 30th anniversary of the 3rd plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It was at that meeting when the Party decided to open up the country and reform its moribund economy.

The decision, which saved the country from economic collapse after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), was masterminded by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of the reforms, along with his comrades who were bold enough to change the old norms.

The brave transformation has made China the world's fourth-biggest economy in terms of gross domestic product, with 24.95 trillion yuan (US$3.6 trillion) last year, up from 10th place with 364.5 billion yuan 30 years ago.

The feat of feeding 20 percent of the global population is also quite a contribution to the world, with personal disposable income rising from 343 yuan to 13,786 yuan. The number of people mired in poverty has shrunk to 14 million from 250 million in 1978, Hu said.

He paid tribute to the past three generations of the country's leadership. In response, the third generation of the leadership, including former president Jiang Zemin and former premier Zhu Rongji, who rarely appear in public now, stood up to greet the public.

Hu also set targets for the country's development: China should have become a more well-off society by 2021, and become modernized by mid-century.

"If we don't sway back and forth, relax our efforts or get sidetracked, but firmly push forward the reform and opening up as well as adhere to socialism with Chinese characteristics, then this grand blueprint will definitely materialize," he said.

However, while stressing that officials must back market reforms, Hu also dwelt on the need for greater State control.

The country must "focus on strengthening and improving the country's macro-economic controls and overcoming certain shortcomings in the market itself", he said.

Hu said the country had "achieved positive results in responding to the global financial crisis", but it needs to do more to keep the economy growing fast.

"We must earnestly implement various measures to further boost domestic demand and promote economic growth, properly deal with the global financial crisis and other risks from the international economy, and do our best to maintain relatively fast and stable growth."

Hu also acknowledged that the country still faces many problems such as low-efficient modes of development, a wealth gap between the rich and poor, and lagging economic indicators in some rural areas.

His speech was warmly welcomed by both academics and the people.

"It summarizes our country's development experience in the past 30 years and looks into the future," Shen Baoxiang, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC, said. "There's an old Chinese saying that at 30, a man becomes well established. That applies to our country's reform drive as well."

Li Zaichun, a 74-year-old who was formerly an official with the All China Federation of Trade Unions and attended yesterday's meeting, burst into tears when asked about her feelings about the changes in the past three decades. "Life has changed so much ... it's beyond words," she said.

Also at yesterday's meeting was 18-year-old Peking University freshman Cheng Bingxiao, who came to the Great Hall of the People for the first time in his life. "After hearing the president's speech, I suddenly feel a sense of historic responsibility," he said.

By last night, thousands of netizens had left comments on the meeting and Hu's speech on major news portals such as sina.com. Almost all of them expressed support for the Party's leadership and praised the country's changes in the past 30 years, but some also wanted the country to better combat corruption.

"My family was too poor to buy me a pair of shoes when I was young (in the 1970s). I could only wear a pair of slippers in the snow," one entry said. "No one can deny what we've achieved in the past 30 years."

Another post read: "I fully support what President Hu said today. If the Party can better deal with corruption, then there's nothing to be worried about."

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