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The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Unrest in the countryside is on the rise"
 real 56k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 16:12 GMT
China aims to double economy
Chinese People's Congress
The session opened with the national anthem
China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has said he wants to double the size of the economy in the next 10 years.

Mr Zhu set a target of around 7% growth a year for 2001-2005 as he opened the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC).

ethnic minority delegates
Ethnic minority delegates arrive for the session
He told 3,000 delegates from around the country that reform of ailing state-run industries was essential.

He also warned that China's imminent membership of the World Trade Organisation would in the short-term add to the pain, but said globalisation could not be ignored.

Mr Zhu only briefly referred to Taiwan, but his remarks sounded conciliatory compared with his blistering rhetoric of a year ago.

He said China would pursue reunification with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, but there was no actual mention of the use of force.

Turning to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, Mr Zhu repeated there would be severe punishment for the leaders of what Beijing has branded an "evil cult".

But he said there would also be attempts to re-educate those who, he said, had been taken in by the movement.

Petrol shortages

However, the vast bulk of the speech was focused on the economy - a reflection of the leadership's conviction that China's future lies with economic transformation, not with political change.

Zhu Rongji
Premier Zhu pledged to continue infrastructure investment
Mr Zhu said China would continue heavy state infrastructure spending and make it a priority to reverse the slide in farming incomes.

China's economy grew by an average of 8.3% in the five-year period up to 2000, but Mr Zhu highlighted a host of problems such as growing unemployment, corruption, low competitiveness, scientific underachievement and water and petrol shortages.

Mr Zhu's address at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing kicked off an 11-day session of the NPC.

Police sealed off Tiananmen Square to avert any protests by dissidents, who want political reform, more spending on education and the removal of rules stopping farmers migrating to the cities.

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See also:

05 Mar 01 | Media reports
Chinese agriculture's new revolution
05 Mar 01 | Business
China says WTO will hit growth
19 Mar 98 | Asia-Pacific
China Congress shows historic dissent
05 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese premier attacks corruption
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
China denies Falun Gong abuse claim
21 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's relations with China
05 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Historic China-Taiwan trip
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