By MEI SHIER
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – Facing mounting social unrest and an economy in slowdown, a defiant Chinese government hit back yesterday with the announcement that most – if not all – of its biggest problems would be solved “in about three years.”
The upbeat remarks were made at a remarkably freewheeling and unorthodox press conference held by State Council spokesman Zhang Gong (pictured, right).
Responding to a question about whether China would follow in America’s footsteps and reform its ageing health-care system, a poised Zhang surprised foreign media with his ebulliently affirmative answer.
“Sure. We can fix this within, say – three years,” Zhang said.
“It’s important not to give specific timeframes to issues where the manners of the solutions are themselves very much unresolved,” added Zhang. “All the same, I’d like to try.”
With questions being lobbed from reporters scrambling to deal with the unusual situation, Zhang replied quickly and sure-footedly.
“Food safety… a year, surely, max. How hard can it be?” he wondered to laughter.
Other mounting pressure-points include an increasingly restrictive hukou (household registration) system and the lack of independent judiciary.
“Every other country solved that shit six centuries ago. C’mon, this is China – we can build anything inside six months or less,” Zhang quipped to fist bumps and cries of “P-R-C!” from an increasingly animated press corps.
Only the question of financial reform – which caused Zhang to steeple his fingers and massage his forehead several times, while jotting numbers down on a napkin – remained unanswered.
“I guess I would have flunked my maths gaokao,” he admitted, as cheers and applause filled the room.
By lunchtime, however, state officials were attempting to downplay the calculations.
“Zhang was simply making an abstract point about forecasting data for a number of unspecified questions of national importance, according to circumstances that have not yet been agreed upon by a group of representatives who aren’t yet elected,” insisted a senior State Council official.
“Sometimes, we just need to come up with a number.”
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