BEIJING, March 16 (Xinhua) --Li Keqiang, 57, was appointed Chinese premier on Friday, at a time when China has become the world's second largest economy. He is the first premier born after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to hold dual academic degrees in economics and law.
During his five-year tenure as vice premier, Li had been widely acclaimed for his acumen and determination in facing challenges, and professional style of work. He had made remarkable achievements in helping overcome difficulties along with endeavors to accelerate economy, improve people's livelihoods and deepen reforms.
Three decades of rapid development has made China a middle-income country. However, the country is still on a difficult journey with many obstacles ahead waiting to be overcome. To build a moderately prosperous society by 2020 in a country with a population of over 1.3 billion shall be an epic and historic task.
Upon appointment as the premier, Li bowed deeply with a smile amid applause of some 2,900 legislators in the Great Hall of the People, underscoring his sense of duty as a big country's premier and also conveying wisdom and strong-mindedness of a mature statesman.
In this file photo taken on Dec. 12, 2012, Li Keqiang (R) meets with foreign guests attending the 2012 Annual General Meeting of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)
Market-oriented reform has been on Li's political agenda. During his investigation tour to Baotou city of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in February, Li stressed that "the hand of the market, the government and the people should join together" to unleash greater power of the reform.
Li chaired a seminar on reform six days after the conclusion of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November.
At the seminar, Li put forward the "reform as dividends" theory. "Reform at present has entered deep water and has to sail in a head tide. We may spare mistakes if we make no endeavor, but we must bear a historical responsibility," he said.
As China's comprehensive national strength keeps building up, the endeavor to square up to conflicts and difficulties ahead and actively advance the reform reflects an ingrained awareness by Chinese people of being prepared for potential dangers and CPC's sense of mission.
Administrative reform became a top priority after the 18th CPC National Congress. The second plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in February endorsed a plan for the institutional reform and functional transformation of the State Council, which was adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) on Thursday. It was Li who led the drafting team.
Li insisted on cutting down the cabinet departments down to 25 to bring more efficiency. This round of cabinet restructuring is the seventh to take place in China since the country's reform and opening up in the late 1970s. Like any reform of its kind, this round represents a difficult challenge.
A commentary published in Nouvelles d'Europe, a Chinese language newspaper in Europe, said China's institutional restructuring will advance step by step, adding that it is high time for China's new leaders to translate their political courage and intellect into political decision-making.
In mapping out the plan, Li said administrative reform is not merely a reduction in the size of the cabinet, but a reform that prioritizes the transformation of functions. He called for decentralizing power over the market, society and local authorities by decreasing government intervention. Functional transformation is integrated with institutional restructuring in his proposal.
Led by Li, the drafting team carried out field research in multiple sectors, provinces and enterprises. Li presided over seminars to seek expert opinions that could aid in resolving difficult problems.
As vice premier, Li knew well how difficult coordination could become when multiple departments took charge of the same task. Food safety was supervised by a dozen of regulatory bodies, which often led to different regulators passing the buck in terms of doing their duty. Marine surveillance forces were spread among five departments, making them too divided to join hands.
Li has strongly advocated the change of age-old problems in the railway sector, which operated both as administrative agencies and enterprises. He also demanded the integration of departments in food safety and marine sectors with duplicate functions.
He has also pushed to reduce and decentralize government approvals for investment and businesses, as well as cut market access examinations and administrative charges. Since many entrepreneurs complain the business registry procedures are too complicated, Li helps change the system by granting licenses more freely. Entrepreneurs are now allowed to register their companies by agreeing upon registered capital, instead of actual contributions.
While reviewing a price reform plan for coal and electricity, Li approved of its market orientation but believed that it was too characteristic of a planned economy. "Given that all coal is sold at market price, why are there still restrictions on quantity and price? The contracts between enterprises brook no checks from the government. The contract law shall solely apply," he once said.
The plan had to be further revised for adoption. Now the revised version has been implemented, lending a strong push for the coal and electricity reform.