China leader promises "unprecedented" reforms at key Party meeting

Reuters

BEIJING, Oct 26 (Reuters) - A top Chinese leader haspromised "unprecedented" economic and societal reforms at theCommunist Party's much anticipated plenum meeting next month,state media reported on Saturday.

Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-ranked member in the elitePolitburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, said theclosed-door meeting would "principally explore the issue of deepand comprehensive reforms".

"The reforms this time will be broad, with major strength,and will be unprecedented," he said, according to the officialXinhua news agency.

"Inevitably they will strongly push forward profoundtransformations in the economy, society and other spheres."

Yu's comments are among the first from China's top leadersabout the plenum, where President Xi Jinping is expected topress for greater economic reforms.

The broad reform agenda is expected to steer the world'ssecond-largest economy, which is experiencing slowing growth,from a reliance on debt-fuelled investment to a more balancedmodel driven more by consumption, services and innovation.

The meeting will mark the third time China's elite200-member Central Committee has gathered since a leadershiptransition last year.

Historically, third plenums in China have served as aspringboard for key economic reforms. Political reform is notexpected to be a major point of discussion.

China's cabinet has called for greater effort in revampingthe economy because a recovery is not yet solid.

China's $8.5 trillion economy grew at its fastest pace thisyear between July and September in a rebound fuelled largely byinvestment, although signs are already emerging the pick-up inactivity may lose some vigour. China still expects to meet itseconomic targets for this year, including growth of 7.5 percent.

China this week launched a new benchmark lending rate, aimedat letting markets set the cost of funds and reducingdistortions that have led to excessive investment andovercapacity now dogging the economy.

At the plenum, the reform agenda is likely to featurefinancial and tax reforms, but may also address persistentissues such as hastening urbanisation through land reforms andliberalising China's household registration system, whichrestricts migration between rural areas and cities.

Critics have said that vested interests, especiallystate-owned enterprises, could stymie reforms.

Former leader Deng Xiaoping launched historic reforms at thethird plenum of the 11th party committee in 1978 to rescue theeconomy from the verge of collapse after Mao Zedong's disastrousCultural Revolution.

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