Chinese parliamentary sessions 2014

Li Keqiang gives straight talk to NPC delegates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 4:21am

In the past 26 years, China has seen four premiers, each with markedly different styles. Li Peng was viewed as dull and stuttering, and Zhu Rongji as stern-faced but charismatic. Wen Jiabao liked to insert poems into his emotional speeches.

As for Li Keqiang, many would regard his style as down-to-earth.

As Premier Li read out his 32-page Government Work Report yesterday morning in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China is facing a new challenge that barely troubled his predecessors - terrorist attacks.

The bloody incident on Saturday in Kunming prompted Li to add a new section to the report that was not included earlier in copies handed out to members of the audience, a highly unusual move.

"We express strong condemnation of the violent terrorist incident which occurred in Yunnan Kunming railway station on March 1, deep condolences to the unfortunate victims and the families of the victims and injured people," Li said to loud applause.

"We must resolutely combat all terrorist crimes that blaspheme the dignity of state laws and challenge the core of human civilisation, and protect the safety and property of the people."

As the new Beijing leadership tries to adapt to a changing society, critics say Li is using simpler expressions that are common in everyday language. When talking about food safety, he used the term "a bite of safety", which refers to a popular documentary series on the history of food and cooking called A Bite of China.

He also vowed to "declare war" on pollution, mirroring the campaign against poverty. Pollution - and in particular smog - has become one of the public's main concerns.

"To compare Li's style with Wen's, I would say Li's language is more popular and simple. His wording can be easily understood by the masses and also appears frequently in the media," said Zhao Ping, a National People's Conference delegate.

Wen vowed to move on from an economic growth model relying heavily on fixed investment when he was sworn in as premier in 2003. But the former premier's 4 trillion yuan (HK$5 trillion) stimulus package, in response to the 2008 financial crisis, left Li with the mounting challenge of cutting public spending.

Li also faces the tough problem of keeping the country's economy growing by an annual rate of about 7. 5 per cent, which is needed to create enough new jobs.