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China's President Xi calls for reform implementation

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President Xi calls for implementation of reforms

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday called for the implementation of reforms but offered no new specific measures in a highly anticipated speech that marked the 40th anniversary of China's move towards market liberalisation.

In a speech lasting nearly an hour and a half, Mr Xi called for support of the state economy while also guiding the development of the private sector, and said China will expand efforts at opening up and ensure the implementation of major reforms.

"We must, unswervingly, reinforce the development of the state economy while, unswervingly, encouraging, supporting and guiding the development of the non-state economy," he said at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Mr Xi was speaking on the day China marked as the 40th anniversary of the start of late leader Deng Xiaoping's campaign of "reform and opening up", which led to rapid growth that made China's economy the world's second-largest.

"Opening brings progress while closure leads to backwardness," he added.

"Every step of reform and opening up is not easy. In the future, we will be inevitably faced with all sorts of risks and challenges, and even unimaginable tempestuous storms."

He was speaking amid mounting pressure to speed up reforms and improve market access for foreign companies as a bitter trade war with the US weighs on the Chinese economy.

Mr Xi and US President Donald Trump agreed early this month to a 90-day truce in the trade dispute, which halted the threatened escalation of punitive tariffs while the two sides continue negotiations.

In his speech, he enumerated the accomplishments of China's development.

"Grain coupons, cloth coupons, meat coupons, fish coupons, oil coupons, tofu coupons, food ticket books, product coups and other documents people once could not be without have now been consigned to the museum of history," he said.

"The torments of hunger, lack of food and clothing, and the hardships that have plagued our people for thousands of years have generally gone and won't come back."

Numerous luminaries in attendance were cited for their contributions to China's economic reforms, including the heads of online giants Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and Baidu .

Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was also honoured for his role in pushing the city-state's "deep involvement" in China's reform and opening-up journey.

Mr Lee was one of 10 foreigners who were awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal.

Mr Alan Chan, former principal private secretary to Mr Lee when he was senior minister, received the award.