As usual, China's annual Central Economic Work Conference, which was held on December 15-16, reviewed developments in the past year and outlined goals for the next. But this year's conference grabbed special attention because it was the first of its kind since the new leadership of the ruling Communist Party of China came to power in November.
A shift of focus from speed to quality in economic growth and a call for reform were the messages emitted from the conference.
The new leaders pledged to stick to the guideline of transforming the country's growth model while maintaining economic stability. They also emphasized that next year's focus should be enhancing the quality and efficiency of economic growth.
It's the first time that the quality of economic growth as opposed to its speed became a policy focus. In fact, the idea of quality growth was already on the minds of policymakers in the past, but stable and relatively fast growth had to be prioritized amid a global economic downturn.
The shift suggests the country is prepared for slower growth as it lays the foundation for sustainable development. Although the lackluster world economy continues to dampen China's exports, the new leaders see this as an opportunity for the country to expand domestic demand, encourage innovation and transform its growth model.
While maintaining steady growth and transforming the growth model is to enhance the quality and efficiency of future development, leaders at the conference emphasized that the key is to deepen economic reforms.
The stress on reform echoed the message by the Party's top leader Xi Jinping while on a tour to the southern province of Guangdong, the frontier of China's reform and opening up.
But in order to pursue reform, the new leaders have to tackle problems from the past. Implementing one measure may affect the interests of many parties. Solving one problem may involve many others. Therefore, greater political courage and wisdom are needed, which the new leaders understand.
Leaders at the conference also pledged to put forward an overall scheme, a roadmap and a timetable to illustrate their determination in taking concrete action.
The conference only proposed outlines. Specific policies are to be discussed and adopted at the annual session of the National People's Congress in March 2013.
However, signals sent from the conference have already raised expectations of substantial changes ahead for the economy.