China's Premier Orders Curbs on Economic Growth PACING THE DRAGON
Sheila Tefft, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
CHINESE communists opened the national parliament yesterday, struggling with the threat of roaring inflation and worrying about social unrest and regional rebellions.
In his address inaugurating the annual session at the Great Hall of the People, Prime Minister Li Peng ordered a slowdown in economic growth, enlisted local officials to cap inflation and pay more central taxes, and pledged higher incomes for restive farmers nationwide and more help for laid-off workers.
In a message stressing that social order takes priority over economic reform, Mr. Li told the almost 3,000 delegates in the rubber-stamp National People's Congress that stability "is an indispensable prerequisite for economic development and smooth progress in reform.
"Currently, the government is in financial straits," Li said. With inflation at 20 percent in the cities, corruption, and a recent political reawakening, the government is feeling pressure to take concrete steps to dissipate popular unrest. "State revenues will increase steadily with economic growth and the reform of the financial and tax systems, but it will take a certain amount of time to alleviate our difficulties."
In the foreign policy sphere, Li also indicated that China is ready to include human rights in its diplomacy. But, speaking just a day before the arrival of US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the premier cautioned that China would not tolerate pressure on human rights. "China values human rights and is willing to discuss the matter ... on the basis of mutual equality. However, it will never allow anyone to interfere in its internal affairs."
Mr. Christopher will make a four-day visit to Beijing starting today to discuss the future of China's trading privileges in the United States amid mounting tensions over the recent roundup of about a dozen Chinese dissidents. …