BEIJING — Premier Li Peng told lawmakers Monday that to ensure the survival of socialism in China, the government must suppress internal opposition, resist foreign pressure, seek steady economic growth and move forward cautiously with market-oriented reforms.
Li's speech, which opened the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp legislature, celebrated China's economic accomplishments of the 1980s, when gross national product more than doubled. He predicted that annual growth of 6% in the decade ahead will provide most Chinese with "a relatively comfortable life" by the year 2000.
The premier's speech was also laced with dark warnings. Without offering any specifics, Li told delegates that "attempts at subversion, dismemberment and sabotage by foreign hostile forces working against China still continue."
In the face of this, "socialist China stands rock-solid in the East," he declared.
Li acknowledged a broad range of festering problems including official corruption, anti-government sentiment, widespread disrespect for law, rapid population growth and inefficient management.
He openly lamented the shortcomings common to many Chinese industrial enterprises.
"Financial, material and human resources are recklessly wasted," he complained. "Excessive consumption in production, inferior quality, enormous waste in construction, slow capital turnover, low labor productivity and serious enterprise losses are to be found everywhere."
Li held out hope that economic problems could be dealt with through stricter management and gradual reform.
China's 1991-1995 "five-year plan" and a more general economic program through the year 2000 will continue to use central planning to ensure balanced development of core segments of the economy, Li said.
But in a bid to promote economic efficiency, enterprises will be gradually pushed into a market environment to promote competition, quality improvements and production of items desired by consumers, he said.
In a rare official acknowledgment that the government has fallen behind on its own timetable for reform, Li said that documents being presented for Congress' approval "propose that we take another 10 years to set up the initial form of a new economic structure."
"This is longer than we had originally planned," Li said. "However, this does not indicate that we can relax our reform efforts in the slightest. Instead, it shows that after analyzing our experience gained over the past 10 years or so, we have arrived at a clearer and deeper understanding of the complications and difficulties involved in carrying out the reform."
Li stressed that as China cautiously moves forward with economic reforms, the Communist Party will not relax its grip on power.
In an apparent reference to the political liberalization that set the stage for massive pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, Li said the government previously had "overlooked ideological and political education." This was corrected, he said, after former Shanghai leader Jiang Zemin became head of the Communist Party in June, 1989, a few weeks after army troops were ordered to crush the protests.
Li said that China has now achieved "political stability and unity" but added, without citing specific examples, that "there are still some factors that could lead to instability."
"We must take these problems seriously and try our best to solve them, not lowering our guard for a minute," he said.
Praising the forces that suppressed the 1989 protests, Li declared that "the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the (paramilitary) Armed Police and the Public Security Police constitute a solid pillar in the people's democratic dictatorship."
Li said that funding for the army will be boosted, partly to "develop defense science and technology, focusing on research in and manufacture of new weapons and equipment to modernize the armaments of our army."
Paradoxically, despite the severity of political repression in China, many ordinary laws and regulations, ranging from traffic rules to matters such as taxation, are capriciously enforced or routinely ignored. Li said this situation should be corrected.
"It must be emphasized that once a law is promulgated, any and all organizations and individuals must abide by it," he said. "We must . . . work towards the point where, when there is a law, it is obeyed, enforcement is strict and lawbreakers are prosecuted."
Li warned that "those who take part in economic or other crimes, abuse power for their personal gain or practice favoritism in violation of the law, no matter how high their position is, must be resolutely punished."
Li said China faces a "grim" situation of population growth, with so many young adults now entering child-bearing age that another baby boom is expected in the next five years. He called for tougher enforcement of family planning regulations and implicitly acknowledged their coercive nature, which Chinese officials sometimes try to deny.
"Governments at all levels . . . should continue to implement the current policies on family planning, encouraging late marriage, late birth . . . and only one child for each couple," he said. Local authorities should "severely crack down on criminal violators of the family planning policy," he added.
In a summary of foreign policy issues, Li called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Persian Gulf region, withdrawal of Israel from occupied Arab territories and mutual recognition by "the state of Palestine and the State of Israel."
Li rejected foreign expressions of concern about human rights in China as interference in its internal affairs and expressed hope that Sino-U.S. relations will be brought "back to normal at the earliest date possible."