Pre­mier guided by a past close to the people

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By HE DAN and YANG YAO

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang’s ex­pe­ri­ences decades ago in ru­ral ar­eas have shaped the re­form phi­los­o­phy he pur­sues to­day, which places people at the core.

When asked about the govern­ment’s sweep­ing re­forms at a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day, shortly af­ter the close of the an­nual par­lia­men­tary ses­sion in Bei­jing, Li re-em­pha­sized the ba­sic pur­pose of re­form: im­prov­ing people’s lives.

“The fun­da­men­tal goal is to al­low the mar­ket to ex­ert its power to activate the in­no­va­tive en­ergy of the whole so­ci­ety, to let the govern­ment ful­fill its re­spon­si­bil­ity so that people will ben­e­fit,” he said.

Li re­called his days 30 years ago when China was op­er­at­ing un­der a planned econ­omy. He spent about five years in the 1970s in ru­ral ar­eas and worked as Party chief in a vil­lage in An­hui prov­ince’s Fengyang county from 1976 to 1978 be­fore en­rolling at Pek­ing Univer­sity to study law.

As a ru­ral of­fi­cial, no mat­ter how hard he worked to help vil­lagers ev­ery day, there never seemed to be suf­fi­cient food for lo­cal farm­ers, he said.

That prob­lem — ba­sic sub­sis­tence — was solved with the in­tro­duc­tion of the house­hold con­tract re­spon­si­bil­ity sys­tem, which al­lowed farm­ers to de­cide what crops they should plant and how to grow them, Li said.

It was not the first time Li has men­tioned his time in ru­ral China and the pos­i­tive changes he has wit­nessed thanks to the coun­try’s re­form and open­ing-up.

In his me­dia de­but as pre­mier with jour­nal­ists from around the world in 2013, Li noted that he re­ceived his univer­sity ad­mis­sions let­ter while he was work­ing on a farm.

“Re­form and open­ing-up changed our coun­try’s des­tiny and pulled hun­dreds of mil­lions of farm­ers out of poverty. It also cre­ated turn­ing points in many people’s lives,” he said. “Now the im­por­tant task of re­form has fallen on the shoul­ders of our gen­er­a­tion, and I think we should try our best to make sure the gen­eral pub­lic can en­joy the div­i­dends.”

Liang Yan­hui, a pro­fes­sor at the Party School of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, said Li’s ideas about re­form and his com­pas­sion to­ward the poor spring from his early ob­ser­va­tions. Those ru­ral ex­pe­ri­ences give him a unique per­spec­tive that al­lows him to put him­self into the farm­ers’ shoes, Liang said.

“Those ex­pe­ri­ences trans­late to com­pas­sion when Pre­mier Li makes de­ci­sions,” she said.

Yuan Rui­jun, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the School of Govern­ment at Pek­ing Univer­sity, said the pre­mier at­tained his cur­rent stature from a grass­roots back­ground, hav­ing es­tab­lished a close re­la­tion­ship with farm­ers through years of hard­ship and poverty in ru­ral China.

As a re­sult, when Li be­came a se­nior of­fi­cial he made a pri­or­ity of im­prov­ing people’s liveli­hood, Yuan said.

Zhu Li­jia, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in po­lit­i­cal re­form at the Chi­nese Academy of Gov­er­nance, said Li’s ear­lier ex­pe­ri­ence may be rel­e­vant but is not nec­es­sar­ily de­ci­sive in the new lead­er­ship’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to deepen re­form. What lead­ers un­der­took was sim­ply a re­sponse to the mod­ern-day re­al­i­ties and needs of China, Zhu said. Con­tact the writ­ers at hedan@chi­ and yangyao@chi­

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