Premier Wen Jiabao made further pledges to alleviate world poverty at yesterday's United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit in New York, but used the opportunity to push also for the Chinese model of 'non-interference' assistance. It was the first time some 90 government heads had met to discuss progress on the goals since they were set in 2000. The goals cover eight main areas, from health to education and the environment, but the overarching target is to halve the proportion of poor in the world by 2015, an aim proving difficult as the world battles a slowing economy, food scarcity and energy insecurity. Mr Wen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown started the meeting with keynote speeches stressing the need for developed nations to make a stronger commitment to reaching the millennium goals. But Mr Wen went a step further, setting out China's view on how to realise them. 'To attain the goals of the millennium declaration remains a daunting task,' he said. 'We must stick firm to holding development as the number one task of governments. Underdeveloped countries must make it their central mission to alleviate poverty through development, while developed nations must offer underdeveloped countries conditions that are conducive to development. 'We must respect the people's right to choose their own development path and model, and make this the foundation and prerequisite of democratic politics. We must use peaceful methods and not violence to resolve regional and ethnic conflicts. We must step up international assistance. 'Developed countries, in particular, must bear the responsibility to help underdeveloped countries, and this assistance should be selfless and with no political strings attached.' Mr Wen said that in the past 30 years China had largely through its own efforts cut its impoverished population from 250 million to 15 million, promoted nine years of free compulsory education across the country, and introduced co-operative medical systems in rural areas It had also written off 24.7 billion yuan (HK$28.2 billion) in debt from 49 of Asia and Africa's poorest countries, provided 206.5 billion yuan in aid and zero tariffs on up to 98 per cent of exports from the most underdeveloped countries. He went on to pledge that China would increase agricultural and medical training, aid, education opportunities, beneficial trade arrangements, food supply and sponsorship of clean energy projects to developing and underdeveloped countries in the next five years. Professor Shen Jiru , who specialises in China's involvement in international institutions, said China's foreign policy philosophy ran through Mr Wen's speech. But, he said, the premier was not trying to give China's economic model the hard sell. Rather, for the first time, it had the credentials to offer its own successful development model as an alternative to the west's. 'In the past 30 years, China has proven that an alternative economic and development model to the west can also lead to prosperity and strength,' Professor Shen said. 'This adds strength to the core dictum of China's foreign policy, which is to allow each country to explore its own path, to build a harmonious world.' According to a UN report released just before the meeting, China is ahead of schedule to meet the major millennium goal targets but some continuing challenges remain in areas such as gender equality, HIV/Aids and the environment.