Premier Li Peng criticized reports that China, faced with soaring inflation and economic turmoil, has abandoned the modernization of its economy, the official news media reported this week.

Li denied at a meeting of the State Council, or cabinet, that a recently announced program to cool off the overheated economy is a setback for China's market-oriented reforms.He said "some domestic figures and members of the foreign press" have suggested that China's decision to "improve the economic environment and rectify the economic order" over the next two years means a halt in the reforms.

"All these doubts or hesitations show that such people have not yet arrived at a full understanding of the relationship between the key tasks of creating economic stability and bolstering reform," he said.

Li's comments were made Tuesday and carried Thursday by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The agency quoted him as saying soaring prices have "made many people uneasy" and "are affecting social security and people's confidence in reform" and that a period of stability is needed to keep the reforms on track.

Li told the ministers they must "change their work style and establish a strict responsibility system." The council and its departments must take the lead in reducing construction of office buildings, hotels and meeting halls, controlling consumer funds and rooting out corruption in government.

He told the State Planning Commission to take charge of cutting investment, the Finance Ministry to control financial deficits and purchasing by government groups, and the Materials Ministry to punish government-backed companies profiteering in hard-to-get materials.

Last month, the Communist Party Central Committee outlined the two-year period of belt-tightening to bring the economy under control.