China to let market play 'decisive' role

Nov. 13, 2013 at 1:07 AM
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BEIJING, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- China's Communist Party Central Committee, led by a new leadership, acknowledged the market's "decisive role" in shaping the country's economic future.

Ending its four-day plenary session, the central committee, under President Xi Jinping, said in a communique China will deepen its economic reform to ensure the market plays a "decisive" role in allocating resources.

The meeting had been expected to focus on deeper economic reforms, political restructuring and opening up the country, which the reform-minded Xi has been stressing since taking over the reins of the country at the once-in-a-decade party congress last year to pick new leaders.

The latest session, whose policies will guide the country in the next 10 years, was held at a time when China faces an economic slowdown after decades of explosive double-digit growth and new challenges ranging from growing public demand for greater say in matters that affect their lives to official corruption. Xi has said the nation's top priority remains development and improving people's livelihoods.

The communique also called for enabling farmers to enjoy more property rights, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The communique said economic reform is key, and the core solution is a proper relationship between government and market, leaving the market to play the decisive role in allocation of resources. It said the primary task is to build an open and unified market with orderly competition.

The document, addressing China's growing urban-rural disputes over land requisition, said construction land in cities and the countryside will be pooled together in one market.

Reforms also were called for in the transformation of government functions and building a modern fiscal system to support initiatives of both central and local governments. There should also be accelerated reforms in the social sector including education, employment, income distribution, social security and public health.

"The meeting is a new turning point of Chinese history," Chi Fulin, head of the China Institute for Reform and Development, told Xinhua. "It decisively impacts on the realization of a series of strategic targets, including the party's goal to develop China into a well-off society by 2020."

The communique also said China will relax investment restrictions and accelerate construction of free trade zones. The new policies will apply both to domestic and international ventures.

The New York Times said besides the market's "decisive role," the meeting also gave Xi a mandate to consolidate his decision-making authority by allowing him to establish a new national security committee and a leadership group to push through programs instead of relying on the party's cumbersome bureaucracies.

Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang also want to change the economy's dependence on polluting industries and extravagant government spending.

"He's [Xi] demonstrating that he's really in charge," Christopher K. Johnson at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told the Times in a telephone interview. "It's the clearest statement we've seen so far of his power inside the system."

Xi, 60, is the son of a Communist revolutionary who served under Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

"The key point for me is that the market has a clearly defined role -- resource allocation -- where it is to be promoted, but the role of the party and government in managing everything else in society is primary," Arthur Kroeber, head of an economic research firm, told the Times. "It represents a pretty ambitious agenda, although of course the details won't come for a while."

"Xi's main concern will be that there have been promises of major reform before, but promises without action," said Deng Yuwen, a Chinese current affairs commentator. "I think the communique makes clear that China will probably lean to liberalization and relaxation in the economy, but will remain quite conservative politically -- not unchanging, but conservative."

The Wall Street Journal said the communique was vaguely worded in that it failed to offer specific plans for addressing more imminent challenges such as revamping or partially privatizing the cumbersome state-run enterprises and further liberalizing the country's currency and interest rate policies.

The Financial Times said the meeting's statement, despite being bland, suggested Xi and Li are preparing to unleash unprecedented market forces within the world's second-largest economy.

It quoted analysts as citing the creation of a leadership group to spearhead reforms.

"They are learning lessons from the past. If you don't have a small group pushing reforms forward, then you have too many interests holding them up," Shen Jianguang, an economist with Mizuho Securities, told the newspaper.

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