BEIJING • Chinese President Xi Jinping has used a traditional pre-Chinese New Year visit to outlying regions to call for more effort to be made in economic and military reform, two causes of key importance to his administration.
Chinese leaders generally use the time around the festival to make inspection trips around the country where they flag policy initiatives or areas of concern for the year ahead.
The week-long holiday, starting on Sunday, is the most important in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel home, many for the only time in the year.
Visiting an old revolutionary base in the southern province of Jiangxi, Mr Xi said that backward production facilities should be shut and resources focused on new industries, in remarks carried in all major state newspapers yesterday.
He urged Jiangxi to undertake reforms and use innovation and entrepreneurship to drive development as the economy has entered a "new normal" phase, an expression Mr Xi coined two years ago to refer to China's slowing growth.
Officials need to apply "new development concepts" in promoting supply-side structural reform, boosting strong and emerging industries, upgrading traditional industries and developing a modern service sector, he said.
China's economic growth cooled to 6.9 per cent last year, the slowest pace in 25 years.
The ruling Communist Party is keen to ensure that slowing growth does not cause social upheaval in the form of mass layoffs or affect too badly the rise in living standards that three decades of economic boom and reforms have brought.
Mr Xi told villagers, in what is a relatively poor and backward part of the country, that the party was there to serve the Chinese people "wholeheartedly".
"We are committed to supporting development of the old revolutionary base areas and making your life better day by day. Not a single family living in poverty is to be left behind on our path to combating poverty," he said.
Mr Xi also met members of the military, which is undergoing a painful modernisation process, including cutting 300,000 service personnel. He said China was committed to building a strong army, and all units must be loyal and contribute to the reforms.
"Education and guidance should be enhanced to promote servicemen's awareness to listen to the party and follow the commands of the party centre and Central Military Commission," Mr Xi said, referring to the body he leads which commands the military.