While new premier Li Keqiang gave little away about his personal feelings in his speech yesterday, he spared a moment to recall one day in one of the poorest counties in China during the Cultural Revolution as one of his most memorable experiences.
"It was in 1977, when I was working in the fields, the day I learned that I had been accepted to university," Li said after the end of the NPC session yesterday. Li was a "sent-down youth" during the Cultural Revolution of the mid-60s and 70s. The the son of a mid-ranking cadre in Hefei city, Anhui province, he was sent to a county well known for its beggars and poverty after high school in 1974, just like tens of thousands of young people at the time.
In the winter of 1977, Li was among 5.7 million candidates ranging in age from 17 to 37 to take the first national university entrance examination to be held in 11 years. He was later admitted to the prestigious Peking University's Law Faculty.
"I cannot forget the hard times I spent with the local farmers," Li said, adding that it was reform and opening-up that changed the fate of his generation, and the resumption of university entrance examination was the most important turning point.
"Reform and opening up changed the destiny of our country and lifted hundreds of million of farmers out of poverty. It has also changed the life course of many people, including me. Now the heavy responsibility of reform has fallen on the shoulders of our generation."
Besides Li, four other leaders of the Communist Party's supreme seven-man Politburo Standing Committee were sent-down youths, including President Xi Jinping, Vice-premier Zhang Dejiang, ideology chief Liu Yunshan and anti-graft chief Wang Qishan. Li promised the country's 800 million farmers that he would strive to improve their living standards through economic and legal reforms.