Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Li Keqiang at the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 15, 2013. Li Keqiang was endorsed as the premier of China's State Council at the meeting here on Friday. [Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng]
Expounding the Chinese Dream at the National People's Congress on Sunday and extending it to incorporate individual citizens' dreams, Xi Jinping pledged to build a government that is clean, responsible, service-oriented, and which adheres to the rule of law.
Their brand of government came into sharper focus as Premier Li Keqiang delved deeper into the topic at his first news conference as chief of the Cabinet later on Sunday.
It will be a government in awe of the law, in reverence of the people, bold in assuming responsibilities and brave in taking actions, Li promised.
It will be streamlined and smaller, and one that knows where to stand. "Consigning to the market where it is capable, leaving to society where it can do well, and having the government manage well what it is supposed to," as Li put it.
To get there, the just unveiled scheme of structural rearrangements for the central government will only be a starting step forward, as it will be a government with the resolve to target the scalpel of reform at itself. That Li vowed to cut more than a third of the existing more than 1,700 items subject to central government approval is a sensible step toward transferring government functions. And the determination Li displayed gave us reasons to anticipate substantive follow-up moves as he pledged to match words with action.
Such streamlining, or "self-revolution" as he termed it, must be difficult, or it would not entail the "hero having the guts to sever his wrist". But without having the cuts to implement them, many imperative reforms will remain stranded.
It will be a government focused on an "upgraded edition of the Chinese economy", an idea that goes beyond the concept of sustainable or continuous growth. It refers to a healthier concept of progress driven by the synergy of the dividends from reforms, the potential of domestic demand and the dynamism of innovation - a concept that badly needs to encompass clean air, safe water, and quality-assured food to eat.
It will be one committed to public welfare. Helping the low-income groups to earn more and continuously expanding the ranks of middle-income citizens are not only about consumption, they are also a matter of fairness. The safety net that Li undertook to weave, a net that will cover the entire population and provide subsistence guarantees, is an indispensable component that defines the nature of our system.
It will be a government dedicated to fairness and justice, with Li stating it should be society's custodian of justice and fairness. He put equal opportunities in spotlight. Everybody who works, no matter his or her background, should be duly rewarded; no matter whether head of a State firm or a private entrepreneur, each should earn their reward through honest and fair competition. That is not only a precondition to a wholesome market, but an inherent request of the Chinese Dream.
Li's initiative to promote vertical social mobility points to a clear and present danger that throttles our society's dynamism and undermines people's sense of fairness. We cannot be more supportive of his proposal to continuously eliminate rules that impede fairness and justice and let explicit rules triumph over tacit rules.
It will be a government that is frugal. Everybody concerned about administrative expenses and corruption will applaud Li's three promises: to prohibit building new government facilities, reduce the number of employees on government payrolls, and cut the money spent on official receptions, overseas trips, and government vehicles.
It will be one that embraces greater transparency. Li made a significant point in proposing to build anti-graft mechanisms under which people cannot and dare not abuse powers. As he said, introducing greater transparency is the fundamental guarantee that power can only be used for public purposes, instead of private ones. The reform aimed at an open and transparent system for government budgets, which he highlighted, will be a practical step to facilitate public supervision. This has drawn much public attention yet shown little headway so far.
And best of all, it will be a government that leads by example. Citing the ancient teaching of "be upright before asking others to be", Li expressed his and his colleagues' willingness to subject themselves to society's oversight, the media's in particular. Talking about the cuts in government expenses, Li specified that the central government will set an example, and called on each level of government to set an example for the next.
The reforms which Li described as being able to "affect the whole body by pulling one hair" will require the courage, wisdom and tenacity he mentioned. Those are the same qualities the future well-being of the nation and the people calls for.
Bon voyage, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. People are full of hope about the governance you are about to deliver.