Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday made a strong pitch for political reforms in the Communist ruled country, warning that a failure to carry out structural corrections could unleash the upheaval of another Cultural Revolution.
Wen, a known proponent of political reform in the Communist leadership, said in what is his last annual press conference that speeding up of structural political reform was required to improve the country's governance.
The Premier, who is set to step down later this year after a decade in power said reform in China has come to a "critical stage" now.
"Without a successful political structural reform it is impossible for us to fully institute economic structural reform and the gains we have made in this area may be lost," he said.
Speaking with rare frankness, Wen recalled the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong that had virtually paralysed the country and called it a "historical tragedy".
"After the crackdown on the gang of four (Mao's wife and her supporters in 1976) our party adopted the resolution on several historical matters and took the important decision of conducting reform and opening in China".
"However the mistake of cultural revolution and impact feudalism yet to be fully eliminated," he said. He said a failure to carry forward the promise of reform might invite another such movement.
The Cultural Revolution initiated by Mao in the 1960s had sought to purge the governance and the country of capitalist elements, and had caused widespread chaos in the country.
Wen, who along with President Hu Jintao is set to retire his year to pave the way for new leadership said he has been speaking about political reforms in the country for some time because he was "seized by strong sense of responsibility".
"New problem that have cropped up in China's society will not be fundamentally resolved and such historical tragedy as the Cultural Revolution may happen again," he warned.
Though he has not elaborated much on what he means by political reforms to improve the one-party system headed by the Communist Party of China (CPC), he said there should be conditions for people to criticise the government policies so that it can correct its policies.
He also spoke of gradual election process starting from villages to cities but said more reforms were needed in the leadership of the party and country.
"As economy continues to be developing such new problems like income disparities, lack of credibility and corruption has occurred. I am fully aware to resolve these problems we must press ahead with both economic and political structural reforms in particularly reform in the leadership system of our party and country," he said.
At the same, he said reforms are not easy in a country of 1.3 billion people, and will not be able to succeed without the "consciousness, support, enthusiasm and creativity" of the people.
"... we must in bear in mind China's national circumstances and develop our socialist democracy in a step by step manner," he said.
The Premier said that reform can only go forward because neither status quo nor going back was an option. "I would like to tell you with a single breath I fully dedicate to advance China's reform and opening up cause".All members of the Party and government officials with a sense of responsibility must fully recognise that further reform is "an urgent task" for China, he said.