On the morning of 13 March 2014, the Second Session of the Twelfth National People’s Congress held a press conference at the Great Hall of the People. Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council met with Chinese and foreign press at the invitation of Fu Ying, spokesperson of the NPC Session.
Premier Li Keqiang said: Friends from the press, I want to thank you for your interest in and coverage of the NPC and CPPCC Sessions. My appreciation goes to all of you for your hard work. Now I would be happy to take your questions.
CNN: Premier Li, my question pertains to the missing airplane of Malaysia Airlines. First of all, our sympathy goes to the families of the passengers and crew members of MH370. It’s day 6 now and there is confusion and frustration. What’s your reaction to the current situation? What is China doing to harness all your resources, civilian, military, satellite imaging to assist in the search and rescue? And down the road, how will this incident impact China’s attitude and policies on opening-up including inbound and outbound tourism? What measures will you take to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in and outside China? Will you tighten up the already tight security? Thank you.
Li Keqiang: There are 239 people on board the missing plane of Malaysia Airlines, including the 154 Chinese passengers. Those people’s families and friends are burning with anxiety. The Chinese government and Chinese people are deeply concerned about their safety. We are all eagerly awaiting news about the plane, even the slightest piece of good news.The Chinese government has activated a comprehensive contingency response and search operation. Currently there are eight Chinese vessels in the related waters and one Chinese vessel is on its way. Ten satellites are being used to provide information and technical support. We will not give up on any suspected clue.
I had a telephone conversation yesterday with a captain of one of the Chinese vessels in the search operation, and asked him to do his utmost. We are looking very closely at all suspected clues shown on the satellite images. This is a large international search operation involving many countries. The Chinese government has asked relevant parties to enhance coordination, investigate the cause, locate the missing plane and properly handle all related matters. As long as there is a glimmer of hope, we will not stop searching for the plane. With respect to China’s opening-up policy, there will be no change with the policy and China will continue to open itself to the outside world. In this course, a growing number of Chinese people will make overseas trips. That will place greater responsibility on the Chinese government. The Chinese government will fully perform its duties and enhance cooperation with other countries and regions to ensure safety of overseas Chinese nationals. As for flight safety, we have never let up our effort in ensuring flight safety as there is nothing more important than human life.
Financial Times: The international community is following very closely China’s financial and debt risks, regarding this as one of the highest risks for the global economy. What will the Chinese government do to tackle such risks? Is the government willing to see default of financial products?
Li Keqiang: I’ve got your question very clear as you speak very good Chinese, but this is a press conference for both Chinese and foreign journalists, so we still need the translation. There is such a view that the Chinese economy is confronted with risks, and I have read such reports which are not optimistic about the Chinese economy. They bear resemblance to the past bearish talk about the Chinese economy. For example, there was this concern last year about China’s economic downturn. Yet in spite of the pressure, we achieved our goal set for economic growth. We pay very high attention to the financial and debt risks. Faced with increased downward pressure on the economy last year, we conducted a comprehensive audit on government debt. That shows that the Chinese government has faced up to this challenge. We have released to the public the audit result as it is. And it shows that the risks are on the whole under control. Moreover, our debt to GDP ratio is below the internationally recognized warning line, and most of the debt takes the form of investment. But the government will not overlook potential risks. We are going to intensify regulatory steps, put those debts under budgetary management over time and enhance the oversight of financing vehicles. In a word, we are going to keep the front gate open and block side doors.
As for financial risks such as shadow banking, we have tightened regulatory measures, set a timetable and started to apply the Basel III requirements. When I participated in the panel discussion during the two Sessions, a deputy from the banking sector said to me: Isn’t the capital adequacy ratio in China a bit too high? After all, we are still a developing country. But this is a must for us, as we don’t want to let today’s stepping stone become tomorrow’s stumbling block. As for default of financial products, how could I want to see such thing happen? Yet I’m afraid certain individual cases of such defaults are hardly avoidable. What we should do is to step up monitoring, promptly handle relevant situation and ensure that there will be no regional and systemic financial risks.
People’s Daily: There is a widely shared concern in the society as to whether this recent anti-corruption campaign will be a short-lived one. Last year, many corrupt officials were dealt with, but does this show there exist some institutional flaws in China? What new steps will the government take to combat corruption?
Li Keqiang: The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have a firm will and resolve to fight corruption. This is our consistent position. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary has been steadfast in combating corruption and holding corrupt officials accountable. New progress has been made in this regard and we will carry forward this campaign with perseverance. For corrupt behaviors and corrupt officials, we will show zero tolerance. China is a country under the rule of law. No matter who he is and how senior his position is, if he violates Party discipline and law of the country, he will be seriously dealt with and punished to the full extent of the law, because everybody is equal before the law.
Corruption is the natural enemy of a people’s government. We must apply the rule of law in both thinking and action in fighting corruption. And we must put the exercise of power and use of public money under institutional check. This year, we will continue to streamline administration and delegate government power. We are going to release to the public a list of powers as quickly as possible and set down a clear boundary for the exercise of power to prevent power abuse. We will also carry out comprehensive audits in those areas which are of high concern to the public, including the revenue on the transfer of land use rights and transfer of mining rights. We will take institutional steps to ensure that rent-seeking behaviors and corruption have nowhere to hide.
Lianhe Zaobao of Singapore: Last year, Chinese leaders visited many neighboring countries and put forward new vision on China’s neighborhood diplomacy and cooperation initiatives. But still there exist some disputes and differences in China’s neighborhood. I would like to ask how do you see China’s future relations with its neighbors?
Li Keqiang: You speak mandarin even better. But still we need the translation. I hope to have your understanding. China is still a developing country. To achieve modernization of the country represents the common aspiration of the 1.3 billion Chinese people. This requires a peaceful and stable neighboring and international environment. I recall that approaching the end of last year’s press conference, I once said that China has an abiding commitment to pursuing peaceful development. We also have an unshakable will in safeguarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. These two points are both for the sake of upholding stability and creating a favorable environment for China’s development. As early as 60 years ago, China and some of its neighbors had jointly initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. When neighbors interact with each other, it’s only natural that sometimes they will run into problems of one kind or another. But as long as they respect each other, properly manage differences and pursue mutual benefit, there will be harmonious sounds instead of jarring noises.
Your question reminds me of my visit to some ASEAN countries last year. During my visit in Vietnam, I reached principled consensus with the Vietnamese leaders about China-Vietnam cooperation in maritime joint development, on the land and in the financial sector. I was curious about how the ordinary people would think about this. So later in the evening, I took some time out of the schedule and visited a small local shop. The shopowner instantly recognized me and she said that she would like to have more Chinese customers. They would bring more businesses to her shop. I asked her how she thought about China’s relationship with its neighbors. She said there should be peace and friendship. Peace, friendship and peaceful co-existence, I believe, represent the common aspirations of all people in China and its neighbors. As long as we all work together to expand common interests and narrow differences, we can live with each other in harmony, bringing greater benefits to our people.