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China pledges restraint in government spending

March 17, 2013|By Barbara Demick
  • China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang at a news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang at a news conference after… (Feng Li / Getty Images )

BEIJING -- The Chinese government pledged on Sunday a moratorium on new government offices and guesthouses along with a reduction in government payrolls and official cars.

The newly installed premier, Li Keqiang, made the promise in his debut speech at the closing news conference of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

"The central government will lead by example and lower levels will follow suit," Li told assembled reporters inside the imposing Great Hall of the People on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
      
Uncontrolled spending on lavish buildings has been a source of public outrage, especially in the provinces where officials have tried to immortalize themselves with absurdly disproportionate edifices.

One of the poorest counties in eastern Anhui province built a $45 million government building eight times larger than the White House, a remote city in southern Jiangxi province what it said was the largest mechanical clock tower in the world.

The ban on new buildings was one of the few specific pledges to emerge from the 12-day legislative session. 

Xi Jinping, installed last week as China’s president and in November as secretary of the Communist Party, told delegates as well on Sunday his new government would "resolutely reject formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance, and resolutely fight against corruption and other misconduct."
 
However, the National Peoples' Congress failed to move on one of the most highly touted measures -- which would have required public disclosure of the assets of government officials, their spouses, siblings and children.  Most of China’s top leaders comes from families with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets, the result of a culture of privilege that allows relatives to parlay connections into vast wealth without breaking explicit laws.

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