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Page last updated at 06:12 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Chinese president praises reform

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Hu Jintao delivers a speech at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, 18 December, 2008
Hu said the decision to reform came at an important time in China's history

Chinese President Hu Jintao has praised the achievements made by his country during 30 years of reforms.

Mr Hu said the reforms had helped revitalise China at a "critical moment" in the country's history.

Since they began, China has transformed itself from a poor, isolated country into a modern, global nation.

But Mr Hu dampened hopes there would be future political reforms, saying China would never adopt a Western political system.

The Chinese president made his keynote speech at a special event held in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

It was organised to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the reforms, begun by former leader Deng Xiaoping.

Critical problem

These reforms have not only made ordinary people richer, but have given them more freedom in their daily lives.

[The] path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, led by the party, its policies and its theories, is correct
Hu Jintao

People can now decide where to eat, what to wear and which career to pursue - freedoms they were previously denied.

Mr Hu told an audience of the nation's top leaders that the decision to reform came at an important time in China's history.

"Our party and government were faced with the critical problem of where to go next," said Mr Hu.

At the time, China was still reeling from the effects of the Cultural Revolution, a disastrous political campaign that virtually paralysed the country.

Society transformed

He then went on to list some of the achievements over the last 30 years.

Communist party leaders attend the event at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, 18 December, 2008
Mr Hu hinted there would be no major political changes in the years ahead

The economy had grown by an annual rate of 9.8%, and nearly 240m rural people had escaped poverty, he said.

Mr Hu praised the country for responding to the current global economic downturn, which is also affecting China.

One recent Chinese news report quoted an official as saying more than 10m migrant workers have lost their jobs.

But the Chinese president hinted that there would be no major political changes in the years ahead.

Although China's economy and society have been transformed, there have been few reforms to the country's political system.

Mr Hu said the success of the last 30 years showed there was no need to change the way China's 1.3bn people are governed.

"[The] path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, led by the party, its policies and its theories, is correct," he said.

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