China is on the road of peaceful development, that is shaped by the country's traditions, culture, development needs and interests, said Premier Wen Jiabao while meeting the press on Tuesday after the conclusion of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing.
Wen emphasized that China is "a responsible country" that is part of the international community.
He cited China's progress in the following 10 aspects:
1. Through reform and development, China has successfully solved the problem of feeding 1.3 billion people and lifting 200 million out of poverty.
2. After much effort, China has decided on a more scientific development path, one that stresses resource conservation and environment protection.
3. China adheres to an independent foreign policy of peace, neither discriminating against any country because of ideology nor entering into an alliance with any country or group of countries. Instead, it is willing to live peacefully with all nations on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
4. It also adheres to the principle of building friendship and partnership with neighboring countries.
5. China is a participant in and guardian of many international regimes. It has participated in over 100 international organizations and is a signatory to nearly 300 international conventions. It is now contributing to the establishment of new international political and economic orders together with the international community.
6. China persistently promotes and encourages world peace. All important regional and international disputes including the Korean Peninsular and Iranian nuclear issues should be settled through negotiation and dialogue. It is also ready to cooperate in international relief efforts. China organized the largest-scale rescue operation in 2004 following the tsunami that devastated areas around the Indian Ocean in December 2004.
7. China strongly opposes terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
8. China is working toward fulfilling all its commitments to the World Trade Organization.
9. Although a developing country itself, China has always actively carried out the UN Millennium Development Goals, mitigating or nullifying the debts of 44 underdeveloped countries worth 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion). China will provide US$10 billion in preferential loans to these countries over the next three years without any attached conditions.
10. China's national defense policy is based on self-defense, and the limited increases it has made in military expenditure will be used mainly to improve the living conditions of officers and soldiers, in addition to improving its self-defense capabilities. The country's defense policy is transparent. China has never dispatched even one soldier abroad except on peacekeeping missions, and has not occupied one inch of foreign land.
Wen concluded: "Even if China does become powerful in the future, it will never interfere with other countries' affairs or try to exert influence on others. China will never become a hegemony."
China-Japan relations hard to develop if shrine issue not resolved
It will be very difficult for China-Japan relations to make progress if the issue of Japanese leaders' visits to Yasukuni Shrine worshipping Class-A WWII war criminals cannot be well resolved, Wen said.
It is not China nor the Japanese people but the leaders of Japan to blame for the souring bilateral ties, he said.
It is China's unswerving effort to develop bilateral friendly relations from generation to generation, he said.
The development of China-Japan relations should follow the spirit and principle of "taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future" and the three political documents signed by the two countries.
Wen called for both sides to continue strategic dialogue between the governments so as to remove obstacles affecting bilateral relations.
"We should also strengthen people-to-people exchanges and enhance mutual understanding and trust," he said.
He also urged to stabilize and develop Sino-Japanese trade and economic ties, in a bid to expanding "mutual beneficial cooperation for win-win results."
Strong China-India relations to usher in true 'Asian century'
Wen stressed the importance of relations between China and India, saying strong bilateral ties will usher in a true "century of Asia."
Wen added that when China and India realize their fullest potentials, they will spearhead "a new true century of Asia."
Recalling his successful visit to India last year, Wen said the two countries reached a strategic partnership to work toward peace and prosperity, signed a political principle guiding the settlement of their border issues, and worked out a five-year plan for China-India trade and economic development.
This year marks the "China-India Friendship Year," he said, adding: "Cultural exchanges will be high on the agenda."
"China-India relations have entered a new historical stage," he said, hoping that the China-India "friendship will grow vibrant and strong" and remain in the hearts of the two peoples.
Economic development conducive to HK's democratic construction
The improvement in Hong Kong's economy and its people's living standards is conducive to promoting the democratic and political system based on the Basic Law of the special administrative region, Wen said.
Nearly nine years after Hong Kong was returned to the motherland, its capitalist market and legal systems remain unchanged. Hong Kong compatriots enjoy due guarantee of their freedom and rights.
Wen called Hong Kong one of the freest and most open economies in the world with a "fully-fledged" legal system, "very favorable" business environment, extensive connections with the world market, and a large number of international economy professionals.
He stressed these are Hong Kong's assets that contribute not only to the region's development, but play an "important and irreplaceable" role in boosting the development of the mainland.
"I believe that with the implementation of the mainland's 11th Five-Year Development Guidelines (2006-2010), the role of these favorable factors will be brought into full play," he said.
Wen also announced the mainland will include another five cities to the individual travel program to Hong Kong starting in May. Thirty-eight mainland cities are already a part of the scheme.
The mainland has forged a closer economic partnership with Hong Kong over the past few years, he said, adding that some infrastructural facilities linking Hong Kong and the mainland are under construction.
With Hong Kong as its fourth largest trade partner, the mainland has to date opened 27 service and trade sectors to it, in the areas of finance, accounting and legal affairs in a bid to give more convenient mainland market access to Hong Kong companies.
Mainland keeps close watch over situation in Taiwan, ready for equal talks
Wen said the mainland is keeping a close watch over the situation in Taiwan and is preparing for any possible change of events.
"We will never give up our efforts for peaceful reunification, we will never sway in our opposition of 'Taiwan independence' secessionist activities, and will never allow anyone to secede Taiwan from the motherland," he said.
It was an overt defiance of the one-China principle when Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian decided to put an end to the operation of the "National Unification Council" and the application of the "National Unification Guidelines."
Chen will "find little support" for his decision, and his move was a hazardous, dangerous and deceitful step, Wen said.
Chen "has forgotten his roots" and has attempted to cut the links of Chinese compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.
"He ran counter to the trends of peace, stability and mutual benefit between Taiwan and the mainland, and also went against the wishes of all the Chinese people including Taiwan compatriots," he said.
Chen has undermined the interests of Taiwan compatriots and "did no good" to Taiwan's economic development by obstructing the "three direct links" and restricting trade between Taiwan and the mainland, he added.
Wen said the mainland is willing and ready to hold consultations and negotiations with any Taiwan individuals or political parties, including the Democratic Progressive Party, on the agreed basis of the one-China principle.
"The negotiations will be held on an equal footing," he assured.
"No matter what party affiliations they might have, no matter who they are, what they said or did in the past, so long as they are committed to the one-China principle, we are ready to have dialogues and negotiations with them, including members of the Democratic Progressive Party," he said.
The mainland's commitment to the one-China principle is consistent and explicit. Wen reiterated that there is only one China in the world and both sides across the Taiwan Straits belong to the one China.
China to unswervingly push forward reform, opening-up
Wen said China must unswervingly push forward its reform and opening-up drive and follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
"Although there will be challenges and difficulties, we must not stop…. Backpedaling is not a way out.
"China has just taken its first steps toward modernization, and there is still a long and arduous road ahead.
"We need to remain cautious despite the comparatively good situation at present," he said.
The reform of state-owned banks and RMB exchange rate
Wen said the reform of state-owned commercial banks must ensure that the state plays a dominant role in controlling the country's economic lifeline and guard against major financial risks.
The reform process must also involve strengthening management of the banks, and improving their internal control mechanisms and supervisory systems to prevent the erosion of state-owned assets.
"The objective behind reforming state-owned commercial banks is to establish a modern commercial banking system," he reiterated, adding that the shareholding system is an effective way of realizing public ownership.
Wen said the adoption of the share-holding system is to improve corporate governance, to learn and draw upon the experiences of advanced managerial expertise, and to improve the management and efficiency of state-owned commercial banks.
China has already had some success in the reform process, he said, adding: "We will continue the reform and learn from experience to prevent potential losses, particularly major losses."
China will not introduce unexpected changes in the reform policy relating to the renminbi (RMB) exchange rates.
The previous practice of fluctuating rates upward or downward by administrative means will no longer apply, he said.
Last July, the RMB's peg to the US dollar was removed. It has since appreciated against the dollar by almost 3 percent.
Wen said further efforts will be made to improve the RMB exchange rate system, and expand the capacity of the national foreign currency market.
"Based on the current RMB exchange rate system, there is room for the RMB exchange rate to fluctuate on its own," he said.
Environmental pollution major problem in development
Wen said environmental pollution is a major problem in China and it has not been addressed well.
Most of the targets of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2000-2005) were met, but tasks relating to the environment were not done well, he said.
China should not follow the old path of pollution first and then treatment, he said. "We should leave green mountains and clear water to our offspring."
"First of all, we should not only focus on economic growth; we should also pay attention to energy conservation and environmental protection," Wen said, noting that in the period of the 11th Five-Year Guidelines for National Economic and Social Development, energy consumption in terms of per unit GDP growth should go down 20 percent, and pollutant emission should decrease 10 percent.
Second, China will implement a strict industrial policy. Enterprises and infrastructure projects that cause environmental pollution and waste resources should be censured, he said.
Third, China will carry out special programs to treat environmental pollution, especially the step-by-step treatment of water, air and land pollution.
In addition, the government will heighten law enforcement. Enterprises that consume huge energy and cause high pollution will be shut down, and enterprises and individuals found responsible for heavy pollution and losses to society will be punished, he said.
Resolving problems concerning public interest
Wen said that during his first three years as premier, the issues worrying him the most were the high costs of medical and education, high housing prices and work safety problems.
He vowed to take the problems and difficulties head on and never back away.
He said China will work to ensure that everyo
ne is given equal educational opportunities.
"Education is the cornerstone of a modernized country and a country's development depends on improving the competence of the public," he said.
The competence of the ordinary individual has a direct bearing on the competence of the general public, he said.
China, with a population of 1.3 billion, 900 million of whom live in the countryside, has a higher proportion of ordinary people. "The reason why we prioritize compulsory and occupational education is that we want to orientate our education toward the common people, giving them an education," he said.
The three main areas of focus are compulsory education, vocational education and higher education, he said, adding that the government will try to achieve further results in these areas.
Wen admitted some local governments have infringed upon the legitimate rights and interests of the people, giving rise to social conflicts.
An increasing number of problems have arisen as a result of land requisition by the government, the demolition and resettlement process, and corporate restructuring.
Wen called on governments and institutions at all levels to properly deal with such conflicts and protect the legal rights and interests of the people.
In addition, education should be reinforced to encourage people to express their requests through legal channels and lawful means, he said.
He reaffirmed that every citizen of China enjoys the freedom of speech and publication, and that such a right must be realized in line with the law.
In terms of work safety supervision, Wen said trade unions at all levels should and can play their role to better safeguard workers' interests.
"Trade unions in China are the workers' own organizations. They are not set up by employers," he said.
Referring to a series of serious work safety accidents, he said it is imperative to strengthen work safety training.
"We will promote worker safety awareness and strengthen their ability protect themselves," he said.
Building of a new socialist countryside
Wen also stressed the importance of building a new socialist countryside.
"The issues concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers are fundamental ones that have a bearing on China's overall modernization drive," he said.
Building a new socialist countryside refers to putting agriculture and rural areas "more prominently on the agenda of the country's modernization drive," he said.
Apart from completely rescinding agricultural taxes, China plans to earmark 339.7 billion yuan (about US$42.25 billion) to agriculture, the rural areas and farmers in 2006, 42.2 billion yuan (US$5.25 billion) more than last year, according to Wen's government work report delivered at this year's NPC session.
Industry should be encouraged to support agriculture and cities to support the countryside.
The democratic rights of the farmers must also be safeguarded, especially their rights to land contracting and management, he said.
Wen said China will mete out harsh punishment to those who illicitly seize land from farmers.
"The core issue concerning Chinese farmers is land," he said. "We must give adequate and due compensation to farmers whose lands are requisitioned. A larger proportion of the revenue from land transfers should be paid to farmers."
Further, China must adopt a system to protect arable land and must protect farmers' rights to farm independently on their land.
The most important reform policy adopted was the introduction of the household responsibility system. According to the system, the land belongs to the collective entity that is the village, while the right to production and farming belongs to the farmer.
Wen said the system is a major feature as well as a major advantage of the Chinese countryside. China guarantees the long-term right to independent farming. "This guarantee will remain unchanged for 15 years, for 30 years, or even forever," he said.
China's management of Internet conforms to int'l practice
The Chinese government supports the development of the Internet and its management of the Internet conforms to international practice, Wen said.
Because it is the people's government, it is subject to the democratic supervision of the masses, and will listen to various opinions conveyed through the Internet, he said.
He noted that the Internet is developing rapidly in China. There are currently more than 100 million Internet users.
The Chinese government supports the development and wide application of the Internet.
Only when supervised by people will the government not be slack in its work; only when everyone takes responsibility will every cause of the country develop smoothly, Wen said.
China's Constitution stipulates that every citizen has the right and freedom to use the Internet. At the same time, every citizen should conscientiously abide by laws and regulations and safeguard national and social interests, he said.
China's management of the Internet is strictly based on law. In the meantime, China calls for self-discipline and self-management of the Internet industry, he said.
"Websites should carry correct information, rather than mislead people and impact negatively on social order," he added.
(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2006)