Social discontent poses a greater challenge to Guangdong than the economic risks the province faces, newly elected governor Zhu Xiaodan said yesterday.
Guangdong would address land rights and land certification issues this year, and also enshrine farmers' land rights in law to ease social conflicts over the requisitioning of rural land, Zhu promised yesterday at his first press conference as governor after the close of the annual meeting of the provincial people's congress.
Zhu, 58, was elected yesterday afternoon by 740 votes to three. He bowed deeply to the congress when his appointment was announced.
He said the root cause of land requisition problems was that some officials did not abide by the law and ignored farmers' interests.
'Social conflicts will build up, become more acute, and even evolve into mass incidents [a mainland euphemism for protests] if not dealt with properly,' he said, insisting that the way to solve such conflicts was by improving the legal system, protecting people's interests by law and setting emergency response systems.
He also highlighted the economic challenges facing Guangdong and vowed to pursue steady foreign trade growth, deeper co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong and increased domestic demand.
'Foreign trade growth in Guangdong has been slowing month by month since August, from 14.7 per cent in July to 5.4 per cent in December,' he said, adding that he expects imports to grow by 8.5 per cent and exports by 7 per cent this year.
He said the government had listed 1,006 items, including advanced technologies, that would contribute to the upgrading of industry, and that the provincial authorities would offer interest subsidies for businesses to import items on the list.
As a province highly dependent on foreign trade, Guangdong will pursue new international markets in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Russia, and Europe, he went on.
Zhu also stressed the importance of deepening co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau. The Guangdong government had worked out a package of 30 policies, including tax reductions, to help more than 120,000 Hong Kong and Macau enterprises in the province cope with difficulties caused by falling orders and rising costs, he said.
The service industry in Guangdong will be opened up to Hong Kong and Macau businesses to promote further co-operation in finance, logistics, information technology and other areas, he said.
Zhu also echoed comments made by Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang with regard to decentralising government power.
'The government should not undertake all the things on the earth,' Zhu said. 'It should do what it is entitled to, and entrust things that it cannot do or cannot do well to the lower ranks, or to society.'