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Top Economic Official Meets the Press

Minister in charge of the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) Li Rongrong met the press Friday morning in Beijing during the on-going Fifth Session of the Ninth National People's Congress. He answered questions from correspondents.

Gov't Focus to Shift from SOEs to All Enterprises

The SETC will shift its work emphasis from state-owned enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones, to enterprises of all kinds of ownership, the senior economic official said.

There are three other aspects of the "four changes" the commission is to make this year, said Li.

"As for the work style, we must transfer from administrative examination and approval to carrying out macro-control, creating a sound environment and strengthening supervision," Li said.

Changes will also be made in the commission's working method, from project examination to guiding the flow of information and managing through both economic and legal means, he said.

The commission will try to change from emphasizing concrete affairs to considering, discussing and dealing with major events in order to become a useful consultant and assistant to governments at all levels, the minister said.

China Expects 9 Percent Rise in Industrial Added Value

China's total industrial added value is expected to grow by nine percent this year, with investment in technological renovation likely to rise by 10 percent, Li said.

The total retail sales of consumer goods is also expected to grow by 10 percent this year. Li said his commission will make great efforts to help enterprises improve their performance.

SOEs Performance in 2001 Far Better than in 2000

The performance of China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in 2001 is far better than that in 2000, despite a 1.4-percent drop in profits, according to the top economic official.

Though the profit figure is lower than the goal set for last year, the result is "very satisfactory," SETC minister Li Rongrong said at the press conference.

He pointed to the fact that the result was achieved against the backdrop of a global economic slowdown in 2001, when the global trade volume and investment declined by 12 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Three-fourth of the countries in the world reported decrease in domestic gross product (GDP) values and 12 countries were having a depression in 2001, he said.

"Against such a backdrop, the SOEs have managed to retain their performance level. This is not simple," Li said.

The minister attributed the SOEs' profit drop, which stood at 6.2 billion yuan, partly to increased spending on compensation for job cuts.

For example, the China National Petrochemical Co. and the China National Petroleum Co. alone spent 41 billion yuan on compensation for 600,000 shed jobs, to improve their long-term competitive edge, he said.

"In fact, the performance of the SOEs in term of labor efficiency, per capita profit and tax far beat that in 2000," Li said.

China Closes Over 10,000 Small Coal Mines in 2001

China closed down more than 10,000 small coal mines in 2001 in an effort to eliminate the outdated enterprises, the minister pointed out. A total of 58,000 coal mines have been shut down, accounting for 73 percent of all small coal mines in the country.

China Exports 85.9 Million Tons of Coal in 2001

China exported 85.9 million tons of coal in 2001, an increase of 46 percent over the previous year, Li Rongrong said at the press conference.

The amount of export ranked the second in the world, highlighting the country's 2001 foreign trade and exports.

China Intensifies Efforts in Enterprise Merger, Bankruptcy

As a result of the government's effort to eliminate outdated enterprises, a total of 460 mergers and bankruptcies were carried out in 2001, Li said at the press conference.

Some 51.5 billion yuan of non-performing loans and bad debts in banks was written off and nearly 700,000 laid-off workers were reemployed.

80 Billion Yuan Slated for Mergers, Bankruptcies in 2002

China will set aside 80 billion yuan (nearly US$1 billion) this year for mergers and bankruptcies of enterprises that are incurring losses and producing pollution and are with exhausted resources, according to Li.

Continued efforts will be made to relax control over and invigorate small and medium-sized state-owned enterprises, he said, adding that the Law on the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Promotion will soon be enacted.

China to Open Wider to the Outside

China will open wider to the outside world and make all-out efforts to meet the requirements brought about by its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), Li said.

He said that efforts will be made to create an environment compatible with WTO rules under which both the government and enterprises operate according to law.

China will work out detailed measures to meet WTO requirements and speed up the establishment of an import and export administrative system that is in conformity with international norms, in a bid to guarantee the safety of national industries.

China will continue to implement the "go global" strategy and encourage and help eligible enterprises of various forms of ownership to set up factories or undertake contracted projects abroad, particularly in neighboring countries, in order to promote the export of technological items, equipment, materials and labor.

Focal Points of Economic Work

The SETC this year will try to create an environment whereby administrative departments and enterprises operate in line with the rules of the World Trade Organization, the senior economic official said.

The commission will help large enterprises to play a leading role and coordinate the development of large, medium-sized and small enterprises under rational division of labor, said Li Rongrong.

The commission will also try to create a market environment where the public sector dominates and enterprises of all kinds of ownership compete fairly for common development.

Li said his commission will provide conditions for high-tech industries and traditional industries to support each other and integrate for further development.

The commission also develop a mechanism for enterprises to enter and quit the market in an orderly manner and encourage mutual promotion and close cooperation between production and distribution, between internal trade and external trade, and between the policy to introduce advanced foreign technologies and capital and that to encourage domestic enterprises to operate abroad.

Successful in Correcting and Standardizing Market Economic Order

China has been quite successful up to the present stage in arresting the momentum of the spread of crimes sabotaging the market economic order, according to the official.

Li Rongrong said at the press conference that the country has zeroed in on such law-violating operations as "knocking-up vehicles", manufacturing of fake and shoddy disposable medical apparatuses and unlicensed "Internet bars".

Over the past year, Li said, the country uncovered and destroyed more than half a million dens for manufacturing and selling fake goods and investigated and punished 1.2 million cases, involving about 16.4 billion yuan. Besides, it shut 202 markets for knocking down rejected vehicles and destroyed 1,338 dens for knocking down and knocking up rejected vehicles, confiscated 158 million contraband publications, more than 4.2 million pirated software disks, uncovered tax evasion or dodging cases involving a sum of 8.65 billion yuan.

Besides, the minister said, major industries and areas strengthened safety control, concentrating efforts on controlling the manufacture and marketing of explosive materials, fireworks and firecrackers, road and waterway shipping traffic safety, safety operations of coal mines, storage and transportation of dangerous chemicals and fire prevention in public places.

In 2001, according to the minister, there were 140 major accidents each involving at least ten deaths. The figure was 18 percent less than in the previous year. The total death toll involved was 2,556, 27 percent less than in 2000.

Media Supervision Challenges Localities' Intention to Cover up Accidents

The supervision of media organizations in China has effectively helped frustrate the intention of some local governments to cover up major industrial accidents, Li said.

The central government was able to get a more accurate account and a clearer picture of the accidents taking place across the country last year, thanks to the efforts by the mass media, said the minister at the press conference.

According to Li, in 2001, the occurrence rate of major accidents (involving above 10 deaths) dropped by 18 percent, and the number of death tolls by 28 percent.

Emphasis will be placed in the years to come on no-state firms in terms of safe production, the official said, adding that local businesses can have an easy access to all enterprise-related government documents as his commission has put them all on the SETC website.

The commission will also intensify training of enterprise staff and workers, especially those engaged in coal mining and dangerous chemicals production, in a bid to raise their awareness of safety.

In curbing road accidents, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Communications as well as other related departments have made some progress in their cooperation. Traffic accidents were considerably reduced last year, he said.

(China.org.cn edited from Xinhua reports March 8, 2002)

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