January 22, 2014 / 12:52 PM / in 5 years

China creates teams to spearhead economic change, with top leaders in charge

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has created six teams to supervise its boldest economic and social changes in 30 years, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang personally taking charge, state media said on Wednesday.

China's President Xi Jinping shakes hands with China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang (L) as other delegates clap during the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 15, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

Xi has been appointed the head of the central leading group for comprehensive reforms that will oversee the six teams, with Li as his deputy, state radio said after the group held its first-ever meeting.

Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, part of China’s elite seven-member Standing Committee - the most powerful governing group in the country - have also been named deputies of the central leading group, the radio said.

Letting China’s most powerful leaders take charge of the nation’s quest for change should alleviate investor scepticism that Beijing may lack the political will to push through the many difficult reforms deemed necessary.

The six teams are the reform group for economic, ecological and civilisation systems; the cultural reform group; the reform group for the democratic rule of law; the social reform group; the reform group for the institution of building the Communist Party; and the reform group for the system of discipline and checks.

After three decades of breakneck economic growth that lifted many millions of Chinese out of abject poverty but also inflicted grave damage on the environment, China wants to change tack and have higher-quality development instead.

The government announced its blue-print for change in November that promised sweeping changes to the economy and social fabric, leading many experts to call it China’s most ambitious reform plan in 30 years.

Some of the hardest reforms, however, will require the government to break ranks with its traditional political allies such as large state-owned companies.

Xi was quoted as saying on Wednesday that as China delves deeper into reforms, the interests of various groups will be increasingly compromised and the government must be prepared to overcome the challenges.

China already had its master plan for change and the focus was now on execution, Xi said.

“Political courage is needed for issues that have been spotted and they must be worked on unwaveringly,” he was quoted as saying.

Reporting by Aileen Wang and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Nick Macfie

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