Prime Minister Zhu Rongji said he would do his utmost to boost China's growth while ensuring the economy would not succumb to ills that triggered the Asian financial crisis. In his first press conference as Premier, Mr Zhu indicated yesterday that while he supported gradual political reform, there would be no overturning the verdict on June 4. Top of Mr Zhu's agenda was boosting domestic demand and spending to ensure that the country grew by at least eight per cent this year. Without giving figures, the economic tsar pledged ambitious programmes ranging from infrastructure and housing to high technology. Mr Zhu's aides said state coffers permitting, he was determined to implement a Roosevelt-style New Deal to create enough jobs to head off social instability caused by unemployment. Mr Zhu spoke for half an hour, detailing five specific reforms he is determined to launch within the first months of his administration. He said China needed a nationwide grain market to ease its huge reserves, a market for individual housing which would boost economic growth, reforms of the investment and financing system to prevent wasteful duplication of capital investment, a new health-care system, and reforms to persuade local authorities to collect national taxes instead of burdening the people with local levies. The fiery supremo attacked local governments for diverting money into wasteful projects and promised the Government would fulfil earlier promises to boost spending on education and science. Mr Zhu went out of his way to quash any doubts that the Asian economic crisis would throw China off course. 'This will not affect the agenda or pace of reform' of the enterprise and financial systems, he said. He repeated a pledge not to devalue the yuan, saying that this affected not only China but also the prosperity and stability of Asia. 'No matter what is ahead, even if it is a field of landmines or an abyss, I will blaze my own trail and never hesitate,' he pledged, winning applause from about 200 foreign journalists present. Mr Zhu was ambiguous on political reform. 'Of course I am in favour of democratic elections,' he said, but added he found it hard to predict when there might be popular elections for top government leaders. As for reversing the verdict on the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activities in Tiananmen Square, he said it was not possible because of the consensus that the party was right to take 'timely and resolute action'. 'The Communist Party and the Government have already drawn the right conclusion on this incident in the past few years. This conclusion will not be changed,' Mr Zhu said. He said he wanted to visit Hong Kong and would not be perturbed by protests if they were permitted by the Basic Law. 'Whether Hong Kong people welcome my visit or stage protests, demonstrations or rallies against me, that's their freedom,' Mr Zhu said.