Hu looks forward to a historic, but difficult year
President Hu Jintao last night pledged to continue efforts to resolve the global financial crisis in the year to come, which he said would be one of 'historic importance' following an extraordinary past 12 months.
'For the Chinese people, 2008 was a very extraordinary and uncommon year,' Mr Hu said in a New Year speech broadcast live on TV, radio and the internet.
Last year began with severe snowstorms paralysing central and southern parts of the mainland. It was soon followed by large-scale rioting in Tibetan-populated areas. And millions of people in Sichuan and parts of neighbouring western provinces are still coping with the carnage wrought by the massive May 12 earthquake.
After the excitement and pride generated by China's first Olympic Games in Beijing in August, authorities were soon dealing with the scandal of milk adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine. Six babies fed infant formula made using tainted milk are known to have died from kidney stones and more than 290,000 other children fell ill.
Mr Hu warned the outlook for the global economy and world stability was grim. China would do its bit to help, he said.
'China will actively engage in tackling the global financial crisis, dedicate itself to boosting world economic growth, and push for a peaceful and harmonious world,' he said. 'China will unswervingly stick to the road of peaceful development and carry out the strategy of [enhancing] mutual benefit.'
He pledged to promote prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macau.
Mr Hu said 2009 would be a year of historic significance because it marked the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic.
The year will be a particularly busy one, since it also marks the 20th anniversary of the crushing of the June 4 movement and 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled to India after the failed Tibetan uprising.
On the issue of Taiwan, he said: 'We will stick to the principle of 'peaceful unification' and 'one country, two systems' ... and improved cross-strait co-operation.'
He was speaking hours after making a major speech on Taiwan policy in which he expressed hopes for future military co-operation and called for political talks.