China's new leaders vowed to maintain sustainable growth for the world's second biggest economy and "pursue a renaissance of the Chinese nation" at yesterday's conclusion of an annual parliamentary session that completed the transfer of power to a new leadership.
In his maiden speech as head of state, Xi Jinping invoked his favourite concept of the "China dream" and laid out a vision of a stronger nation with a higher standard of living for its 1.3 billion people. during his administration.
New Premier Li Keqiang, speaking later at a news conference in the Great Hall of the People that wrapped up the two-week annual session of the National People's Congress, gave assurances that the new government's top priority would be to maintain stable growth and that his administration was up to the task, a message likely to be applauded by investors and the market.
Both Xi and Li stressed the necessity of deepening reform to deliver sustained growth but neither mentioned systematic political reform.
Painting his vision of a great renaissance of the nation, Xi stressed that the "China dream" could only be realised by seeking "China's own path," cultivating patriotism and following the Communist Party's leadership. "We must continue to strive to achieve the China dream and the nation's great revival," he said. Analysts say Xi's speech outlined lofty goals but stopped short of mentioning initiatives that would have real impact.
Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian, said: "It stressed that everyone should rally around the Communist Party: Follow us, then we'll have a bright future."
On a more down-to-earth note, Li defined the areas of reform for his cabinet in his 107-minute-long debut press conference as premier. They focused on administrative streamlining to make governance more efficient. These included transforming government roles and functions, simplifying bureaucratic procedures and delegating power.
"Right now, there are more than 1,700 items that still require the approval of State Council departments... We're determined to cut that figure by at least one third," Li promised.
In an effort to show his determination to tackle the obstacles in pushing forward economic reform, he said: "Sometimes stirring vested interests may be more difficult that stirring the soul.
"But however deep the water may be, we will wade into the water. This is because we have no alternative. Reform concerns the destiny of our country and the future of our nation."
Lu Ting, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, welcomed Li's remarks. "He understood very well that key barriers for reforms are vested interests rather than ideology, or 'soul' in his words, and he promised to tread uncharted waters," Lu said.
With China's economic environment expected to remain "severe and complex", the government will aim to manage latent risks to avoid "big fluctuations" in economic performance, Li said.
Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University, said such goals indicated China would not see radical changes in the near future.
"Political reform was omitted," Zhang said. "The new government will probably make no structural or radical change."