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Cover Stories Series 2013> Shanghai to Pilot Free Trade Program> Archive
UPDATED: December 24, 2012 NO. 52 DECEMBER 27, 2012
Advancing Economic Reforms
China's leaders set the tone for 2013
By Lan Xinzhen

A HEARTY CHAT: Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, listens to a report on the research and development of a new type of aircraft at the Zhuhai base of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd. He paid his first inspection tour as the new Party leader to south China's Guangdong Province on December 7-11 (LAN HONGGUANG)

What kind of economic policies will China adopt in 2013? Will any significant economic reforms be realized? These are among the questions on the minds of China-watchers following the country's once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC) held in Beijing on December 15-16 provided the answers: China will further expand reform and opening up and continue its macroeconomic policies, but in a prudent manner described as "active and steady."

The CEWC is held at the end of each year to discuss issues in the domestic and international economies and map out plans for the following year. The meeting this year attracted more attention than usual because of the presence of the country's new top leaders and a rebound in economic growth.

The CEWC concluded that the global economic situation would continue to be turbulent. The global economy is expected to maintain low growth, various forms of protectionism will resume and the pressure of potential inflation and asset bubbles will expand. The global economy has entered a period of profound transition from a period of fast growth in the pre-crisis years.

Expanding domestic demand, improving innovation and continuing the transformation of the country's economic growth pattern will present new opportunities for China's economy.

Zhang Liqun, a macroeconomic researcher at the State Council's Development Research Center, said the new leaders are very confident about economic development in 2013 and believe the Chinese economy is likely to maintain steady growth.

Breakthroughs for reform

"Reform" was the main buzz word at this year's CEWC. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said at the conference that China should maintain a market economy and said that further reform needs "greater political courage and wisdom."

Vice Premier Li Keqiang said that reforms are a major plus for China. Reforms, he said, would not only bring in fresh ideas but would ensure that vested interests would not dominate the economy.

"This shows the resolution of the Central Committee of the Party," said Lian Ping, chief economist of Bank of Communications. "The terms used throughout the conference, such as 'overall scheme,' 'roadmap' and 'timetable' for the reform, are inspiring and indicate that future reforms will not be confined to small matters, but are focused on major issues."

The Chinese economy is facing immense difficulties in pursuing its economic reforms and readjusting its growth structure, Lian said. Reforms can only be implemented if there are changes to the country's wealth distribution and financial system, if monopolies are broken up and if the household registration system, or hukou, is overhauled.

Such grand changes must come from the top, and leaders have already signaled their openness to expand reforms.

Upon his election as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Xi paid his first inspection tour to south China's Guangdong Province, the bellwether of China's reform and opening up over three decades ago. From December 7-11, he visited cities of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shunde and Guangzhou, where he dropped in on families, held seminars and deliberated upon a new round of economic reform needed for today's China.

In Shenzhen, Xi also laid a basket of flowers at the statue of Deng Xiaoping, who ushered in a new wave of economic reforms and opening up that transformed China into an economic powerhouse.

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