Premier vows to live up to people's expectations
  Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that his government will stand new challenges and live up to the expectations of the people. He called the year 2003 an extraordinary year as China won an "important victory" over the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome") and scored "obvious achievements" in its economic development. But the achievements are only a reflection of the past, he said.
  "A wise nation is one good at learning, especially the one that is good at learning from difficulties," Wen acknowledged. The most crucial are the experience, lessons and revelation they have brought about instead of achievements.
  This year's goal is to maintain a balanced, relatively-fast economic growth, the premier said. The most difficult problems involved agriculture, rural areas and farmers, and what he cares most are matters pertaining to people's interests.
  The premier pledged to continue reform, innovation and forging ahead courageously.
  China will never seek hegemony
  China does not seek hegemony now, nor will it seek hegemony even after it became powerful in the future, said Premier Wen. China has a history of 5,000 years with both glorious achievements and humiliating sufferings, and the rise of China has been the dream of generations of Chinese, Wen said.
  China will take full advantage of the good opportunity of world peace to develop itself and at the same time safeguard world peace with its development.
  The premier said China's rise will be based on its own strength and self reliance, as well as the vast domestic market, abundant human resources and abundant natural resources.
  Noting China's rise could not be achieved without the rest of the world, Wen said the country must always maintain its open policy and always develop economic and trade exchanges with all friendly countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefits.
  China's rise, which would require a lot time and probably efforts of several generations, will not stand in the way of any other country, nor pose threat to any other country, nor at the cost of any other country, Wen said.
  "China does not seek hegemony now, nor will it seek hegemony even after it became powerful," Wen said.
  Economy at critical juncture
  The Chinese government is now facing a test no less severe than that posed by the SARS epidemic last year, said Premier Wen.
  The Chinese economy developed rapidly and demonstrated "more dynamism" last year. But some deep-seated problems in the country's economic structure remained unsolved while new problems such as excessive investment scale, decreasing grain output and an "obvious trend of rising prices" kept cropping up, said the premier.
  These problems exposed the Chinese government to a test "no less severe" than that posed by last year's SARS epidemic and put China's economy at a "critical juncture", commented Wen.
  If the problems are properly handled, the "big ship of the Chinese economy" will move forward smoothly or "setbacks" will be "inevitable", said Wen.
  Public shows great interest in Government Work Report
  Premier Wen Jiabao, in an unprecedented move, responded to questions from the Chinese public and teenage students from the United States.
  The general public, both home and abroad, have shown "great interest" in the Government Work Report he delivered to the national legislature and his press conference at the end of the legislative session, Wen said, noting that they have put forward many questions to him prior to the press meeting, including 54 questions from American teenagers.
  In response to a question on his work, Wen quoted verses of late Chairman Mao Zedong and an ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan (born more than 2,300 years ago) to express his determination to work harder for the country in spite of numerous difficulties.
  "I'd like express my gratitude to the public by answering one of the questions," he said.
  He said that he just received a letter from the United States written by more than 30 students from a Kansas high school who raised 54 questions.
  "They inquired a lot about China's political, economic, cultural, social affairs and my personal life, including what my favorite food is, whether I practice martial arts and even what the size of my shoes," he said.
  "They are turning their eyes to China today," the premier said, adding that he is also grateful to the "foreign friends who care about China's construction work."
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