New Premier Li Keqiang pledges to use ‘iron fist’ on China’s pollution

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 2 minutes
18 March 2013

BEIJING: China’s new leader Li Keqiang vowed to tackle the country’s pollution problems yesterday, during his first news conference as Premier of China.

The news conference took place after the annual legislative session, which marked the end of the leadership transition process to appoint Li Keqiang as Premier and Xi Jinping as President of China.

Stating that he was “upset” by the record levels of smog that have covered Beijing recently, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to use an "iron fist" to tackle China's pollution issues, with plans to “upgrade the country's economic development model to enable people to enjoy clean air and safe drinking water and food."

Li promised the government will set deadlines to address pollution and implement tougher measures to tackle polluters. He said: "This government will show even greater resolve and take more vigorous efforts to clean up such pollution."

Referring to the importance of putting sustainability at the heart of China’s strategy to meet an economic growth target of 7.5%, he added: "We shouldn't pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment. Such growth won't satisfy the people.”

Premier Li concluded with: “[…] the highest priority will be to maintain sustainable economic growth. It can be expected that the economic environment facing China will continue to be serious and complex.”

Hundreds of delegates at the Congress issued a protest against the rising level of pollution in the country and took a stand on environmental policy during the meeting on Saturday.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, said: “China must raise the threshold of environmental protection and accelerate old debts, and this new Government could well be the ‘iron fist’ that is needed.

“The rule of law, scientific decision-making and innovation have all led China to embark on a green development path with its own characteristics. I believe that people will keep their eyes open, looking forward to the new government under the leadership of Premier Li, and the construction of ecological civilization.

“China needs a ‘chief architect’ of this green growth, and while it is promising to hear Li’s words in yesterday's address, the direction that the new leadership goes from here is less clear at present.”

By Clare Saxon

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