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Senior Chinese leader appeals for unity over reform plan

The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen behinds red flags in Tiananmen square in Beiji
The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen behinds red flags in Tiananmen square in Beiji

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese leader has appealed to members of the ruling Communist Party to unite around a key reform plan and shoulder the "historic" responsibility of making sure it is followed through, state media said.

Zhang Dejiang, number three in the party's hierarchy and head of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, told officials that the reform plan was an "important political task", Xinhua news agency said. The article was published in full on Saturday by the official party newspaper, the People's Daily.

"Fully understand the important meaning of the plenum," Zhang said, referring to the party's Nov 9-12 meeting which agreed on the reform roadmap.

"Work as one to put into effect and enact the policy decisions and plans," he said.

China unwrapped its boldest set of economic and social reforms in nearly three decades on Friday, relaxing its one-child policy and further freeing up markets in order to put the world's second-largest economy on a more stable footing.

The announcement of the sweeping changes helped dispel doubts about the leadership's zest for the reforms needed to give the economy fresh momentum as three decades of breakneck expansion show signs of faltering. However, the reforms may take years to implement.

A document released by the Communist Party following the conclave of its senior leaders promised land and residence registration reforms needed to boost China's urban population and allow its transition to a western-style services- and consumption-driven economy.

Still, Xi and his team gave themselves until 2020 to achieve "decisive" results - a tacit acknowledgement of the risks involved in Beijing's balancing act between letting market forces eventually take over and preserving financial and social stability and the Communist Party's political monopoly.

Zhang said the document had "deep historic meaning" and that party members must "dare to take on responsibility" to follow and enforce its directives.

State newspapers on Saturday largely confined themselves to reprinting the lengthy document in full without comment.

However, the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the People's Daily, warned that reform would not be easy, especially for vested interest groups which had a lot to lose.

Analysts have said reducing the hold of often massive state-owned companies over the economy will be one of the trickiest tasks.

"Reading the document closely, many of the clauses touch upon the interests of certain people, even though they accord with the overall interests of society," the Global Times said in an editorial.

"For reform to proceed smoothly, those who are opposed to or not happy with certain projects ... should be let down softly. The more this happens, the stronger support will be for reform," it added.

"If forced breakthroughs become the commonly employed method, then reform will be bumpy."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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