BEIJING (AP) -- China's government vowed Friday that it will not deviate from its socialist path, defending anew its authoritarian system and saying Western capitalist political systems are not suitable for China.
China's top legislator, Wu Bangguo, said in a report delivered to the annual National People's Congress that China needs to keep to the socialist path and understand the differences between its political system and those of Western capitalist countries.
As China has grown more powerful and rich in recent years, it has strongly rejected any criticism of its policies and suggestions that the economic changes would bring about any lessening of power for the ruling Communist Party.
Wu, the second most powerful person in the party, said the socialist system with Chinese characteristics "is the fundamental institutional guarantee for the development and progress of contemporary China, and we must cherish it even more and adhere to it for a long time to come."
He said that China needs to understand the "essential differences" between its systems and "Western capitalist countries' systems of political power."
"To manage China's affairs well, we need to stay grounded in its realities, rely on the strength of the Chinese people, and follow a development path suited to China's conditions," he said.
Wu also reiterated goals laid out by Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening of the 10-day congress on Monday — that the government must rebalance the economy by increasing domestic demand, especially consumer demand, and boosting investment in science and technology while promoting energy conservation and the cutting of emissions.
Even though China's economy has grown at a double-digit pace for years, the government is now grappling with a slowing economy and rising public demands for greater fairness. Officials have also been slow to tackle entrenched interests, particularly the powerful state enterprises that dominate the economy. The World Bank and outside economists said recently that such a restructuring is needed if China wants to rise from a middle-income to a rich country.
Wu said that legislative work this year would also focus on social and cultural areas. On the social front, legislative committees will discuss drafts of the mental health law, the law on insurance for military personnel and the draft amendment to the Civil Procedure Law, among others.
He said 2012 is an important year because of a once-every-five-year party congress in October that will oversee the change of most of the ruling party bosses.