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China’s Li Says Economic Overhaul Must Accelerate to Keep Growth

China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang,
Li Keqiang, China's vice premier. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, promoted last week to the No. 2 spot in the ruling Communist Party and set to take the job of premier in March, said three decades of economic opening must be accelerated as the push to overhaul the economy encounters obstacles.

Li, speaking Nov. 21 at a meeting in Beijing, said China needed to accelerate economic overhaul, citing areas including improving state-owned enterprises and the taxation system, according to remarks published on the government’s website.

“At present reform has encountered a ‘fortress area’ and a ‘deep water area,’” where there are countercurrents that can push back progress, Li said. “We must overcome difficulties and get rid of all institutional obstacles that hinder scientific development.”

Li didn’t cite specific policies the government would push to boost the economy and overhaul the country’s growth model. Economic growth in the past decade accelerated under Premier Wen Jiabao to an average 10.6 percent a year following decisions made under his predecessor, Zhu Rongji, to reshape the management of state-owned companies and open China’s economy and financial industry to foreign investment as part of its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

In a Nov. 21 article in the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper, Li said China had to deepen its rural-to-urban population shift to support the growth necessary for the nation to overcome the so-called middle income trap of economic stagnation.

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