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China will pursue 'powerful' military: Wen

Key points from Chinese premier's address to parliament
Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2011 - Premier Wen Jiabao delivered a two-hour speech to China's parliament on Saturday outlining the government's priorities and programmes for 2011. Here are key points and quotes from his speech:


China will "effectively solve problems that cause great resentment among the masses," Wen said, naming inflation, illegal land grabs, food safety and corruption among the top concerns.

"We must therefore have a strong sense of responsibility toward the country and the people and work tirelessly and painstakingly to solve these problems more quickly to the satisfaction of the people."


-- The economic growth target for 2011 is about eight percent, following an expansion of 10.3 percent in 2010. The annualised growth target for the 2011-2015 period is seven percent.

"We have set a target of seven percent annual increase in the economy over the next five years with significant improvement in the quality and performance of economic growth."


-- The inflation target for 2011 is around four percent.

"Recent prices have risen fairly quickly and inflation expectations have increased. (...) This problem concerns the people's well-being, bears on overall interests and affects social stability. We must therefore make it our top priority in macroeconomic control to keep overall price levels stable."


-- China expects a 900-billion-yuan budget deficit in 2011, 150 billion yuan less than what was budgeted last year.

"We will keep the deficit and government bonds at appropriate levels. (...) We need to focus on optimising the structure of expenditures."


"We will further improve the mechanism for setting renminbi exchange rates."


"We will resolutely regulate the housing market. We will act more quickly to improve the long-term mechanism for regulating the real estate market."


-- China's military spending will increase 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan.

"Strengthening national defence and building a powerful people's army are important guarantees for safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests."


"We will adhere to the major principles and policies for developing relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits and promoting the peaceful reunification of our motherland in the new situation."

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2011
Premier Wen Jiabao vowed on Saturday that China would continue building a "powerful" military, one day after Beijing announced a return to double-digit percentage hikes in defence spending.

"Strengthening national defence and building a powerful people's army are important guarantees for safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests," Wen said in a speech opening the nation's legislature.

"We will energetically yet prudently press ahead with reform of national defence and the military," he said.

A spokesman for the National People's Congress said on Friday that China's defence budget would rise 12.7 percent in 2011 to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion).

A multi-year trend of double-digit percentage increases was broken in 2010 when the budget rose just 7.5 percent.

China has upgraded the People's Liberation Army's capabilities over the past three decades, developing advanced weaponry like its first stealth fighter jet, revealed in January.

The campaign has alarmed the United States, Japan, and others in the region and raised fears a more assertive China would seek to project its power overseas.

"It is an extremely high ratio for defence spending," Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters on Friday.

"We cannot help worrying about what all the money is used for."

Wen said "great progress was made in the modernisation of national defence and the army" in the past five years.

China would continue to develop new weaponry and "vigorously adapt our military training to the Information Age," he said.

The announced budget is widely believed to be far lower than actual spending.

The PLA -- the world's largest military force -- is hugely secretive about its defence programmes, but insists its modernisation is aimed purely at defence of China's vast land and sea borders.

"This will not pose a threat to any country," Li Zhaoxing, the parliament spokesman -- and a former foreign minister -- said in announcing the budget.

Wen said China also would continue strengthening the People's Armed Police, a paramilitary force tasked with suppressing domestic unrest.

China annually sees tens of thousands of public protests, which are often violent.

It squelched violent 2008 anti-Chinese unrest in Tibet, and 2009 saw deadly ethnic rioting in its Xinjiang region, home to millions of members of the Muslim Uighur minority, a Central Asian people.

"We will modernise the armed police force to improve its ability to carry out duties, respond to emergencies, combat terrorism and safeguard stability," Wen said.

China began revamping the PLA -- the former ragtag peasant force formed in 1927 by the Communist Party -- in earnest after a troubled 1979 incursion into Vietnam, when the neighbours vied for influence over Southeast Asia.

Besides conventional weaponry upgrades, the push also has led to China's fast-growing space programme and the test of a satellite-killing weapon in 2007.

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Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2011
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