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Two weeks before the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China started, I was on an assignment in Latin America.
In an interview with a top Peruvian trade and economy official, I was interested to hear how aware he was of the upcoming congress.
"We are certainly interested in the country's issues and what changes they could bring, because China is so important for all of us," he said.
As the world's second-largest economy, the world's largest manufacturing center and exporter, and the second-largest importer, China has ample reasons to draw global interest.
But despite its admirable expansion in recent years, the Chinese economy is facing a lot of challenges and problems that need to be tackled as soon as possible.
Those include an economic slowdown, a grim export outlook, the environment's degradation, a huge and growing gap between rich and poor, insufficient competitiveness in its manufacturing sector, and excessive industrial capacity, to name a few.
In his report to the congress on Thursday, President Hu Jintao prioritized transforming the country's economic growth model and reforming the economy - themes he repeated through his speech.
Reform of State-owned enterprises, expanding domestic consumption, innovation, raising individual incomes and further measures in the country's opening-up were also outlined.
This transformation is paramount - but it will be far from easy to accomplish.
In the days following the opening of the congress, I heard a lot of reporters asking delegates how they would like to see the country transform, and how difficult that may prove.
In one news conference dealing with China's SOEs, Wang Yong, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, spoke with passion about how much pressure SOEs have been under, but said that he remains resolute that reforms will take place.
In another news briefing, with Commerce Minister Chen Deming, questions focused on how to expand domestic consumption.
Chen was his usual smiling self, presenting a six-point plan of concrete measures to enhance the country's competitiveness as a foreign investment destination while still encouraging investment by our own companies.
Maintaining the support and confidence of major industrial players, especially those firmly established on the international stage, remains vital for the government.
One of those is Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd.
The Hunan-based construction machinery giant's chairman Liang Wengen told me at the congress that the company will continue to seek merger and acquisition opportunities, after announcing a plan earlier this year to buy Putzmeister, the German manufacturer of concrete machinery.
What impressed me most during our hourlong interview was his total confidence in the future of his company and China's vital manufacturing sector.
"Better products improve China's image. I am sure that Sany can make it, and China can make it too."
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(China Daily 11/14/2012 page8)