Yu Zhengsheng. Photo: Xinhua

UpdateCommunist Party's Yu Zhengsheng vows 'unprecedented' reforms

Plenum will tackle economic and social changes, Politburo Standing Committee member says

A top Communist Party leader has promised "unprecedented" economic and social reforms at the party's highly awaited plenary meeting next month, state media reported yesterday.

Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-ranked member in the elite Politburo Standing Committee, said the closed-door meeting would "principally explore the issue of deep and comprehensive reforms".

"The reforms this time will be broad, with major strength, and will be unprecedented," he said, according to Xinhua. "Inevitably they will strongly push forward profound transformations in the economy, society and other spheres."

Yu's comments are among the first from top leaders about the plenum, where President Xi Jinping is expected to press for greater economic reforms. The broad reform agenda is expected to steer the world's second-largest economy, which is experiencing slowing growth, from a reliance on debt-fuelled investment to a more balanced model driven more by consumption, services and innovation.

The meeting of the elite 200-member Central Committee will be its third since a leadership transition last year.

Historically, Central Committee third plenary meetings have served as a springboard for key economic reforms. Political reform is not expected to be a major point of discussion.

The cabinet has called for greater effort in revamping the economy because a recovery has yet to gain momentum.

The US$8.5 trillion economy grew at its fastest pace this year between July and September in a rebound fuelled largely by investment, although signs are already emerging the pick-up in activity may lose some vigour.

Beijing still expects to meet its economic targets for this year, including growth of 7.5 per cent.

The People's Bank of China last week launched a new benchmark lending rate, aimed at letting markets set the cost of funds and reducing distortions that have led to excessive investment and overcapacity now dogging the economy.

At the plenum, the agenda is likely to feature financial and tax reforms, but may also address persistent issues such as hastening urbanisation through land reforms and liberalising the household registration system, which restricts migration between rural areas and cities.

Critics have said vested interests, especially state-owned enterprises, may stymie reforms.

The late Deng Xiaoping launched historic reforms at the third plenum of the 11th party committee in 1978 to rescue the economy from the verge of collapse after Mao Zedong's disastrous Cultural Revolution.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Party no. 4 vows dramatic reforms