China paper urges more reform as leaders hold key meeting

Security personnel guarding the entrance of Jingxi Hotel, the venue of the Communist Party Central Committee's Third Plenum, in Beijing, on November 9, 2013. Chinese leaders began a four-day secret meeting on Saturday to set a reform agenda for the n
Security personnel guarding the entrance of Jingxi Hotel, the venue of the Communist Party Central Committee's Third Plenum, in Beijing, on November 9, 2013. Chinese leaders began a four-day secret meeting on Saturday to set a reform agenda for the next decade as they try to push more sustainable growth after three decades of breakneck expansion, amid signs of continuing debate on how to implement the reforms. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, the People's Daily, on Sunday urged more economic reforms as leaders held the second day of a key meeting, but warned of "risk" going forward.

China on Saturday began a meeting - known as the Third Plenum - to chart the direction of the world's second-biggest economy for the next decade as it faces a slew of challenges from slowing growth to widespread environmental degradation.

The four-day meeting, which is cloaked in secrecy, is expected to focus on economic reforms, officials and state media say.

In a front page editorial, the People's Daily praised China's economic reforms of the past three decades in bringing prosperity to the world's most populous country and called for more changes.

"China needs to deepen reform... opening-up on all fronts in order to forge ahead. Under new historical circumstances, we must achieve new breakthroughs in reforms so as to break new ground in development," it said.

But the editorial added that China faced an "uphill road" as it seeks to address new challenges.

"In a society with rapid transformation and accumulating contradictions, in a fast-changing world with fierce competition, every step we take towards the peak is a perilous climb that bears risk and even crisis," it said.

Authorities use the People's Daily to give insight into current party thinking.

Analysts have downplayed concrete measures emerging from the party meeting, which ends on Tuesday, as such gatherings tend to unveil general principles.

In a separate article, the People's Daily said policies could focus on narrowing the wealth gap, reforms to powerful state firms and shifting rural residents to the cities. It gave no further details.

China's economic growth model depends heavily on state-led investment, though leaders have called for allowing private firms and individual consumers to play a greater role.

But reforming state companies, which still monopolise large parts of the economy, will be difficult given vested interests and close ties to government, analysts say.