World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz says the development lender still has a role to play in China, despite the country's rapid economic growth. Mr. Wolfowitz wrapped up a week-long visit to China on Tuesday.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz praised China for its rapid transition from being a poor, undeveloped nation to having one of the world's fastest growing economies.

Speaking in Beijing, he said China now faces new challenges as it moves toward a more open market economy. He then called on the communist leadership to give its people a greater voice.

"Such issues as the rule of law and the role of civil society are important non-economic factors in development, as important or perhaps more important than the traditional inputs of labor and capital. China is at a point now where these issues loom large on the agenda," he said.

Mr. Wolfowitz said he needed to be "diplomatic" in order to preserve what he said is the agency's candid relationship with the Chinese government.

The World Bank chief also defended his agency's involvement in China, against criticism by some international observers who question why the country is still receiving foreign aid while spending billions of dollars on such things as a space program.

"I put the question the other way around. How could the World Bank not be working with the most populous nation in the world - a country that still has the second largest number of poor people in the world," he said.

He said the development-lender maintains a role in helping lift millions of Chinese out of poverty.

Mr. Wolfowitz said China is the country with the largest number of outstanding loans from the agency but all loans to Beijing are so-called "hard" loans, meaning the Chinese government is bound to repay them fully.

On this trip to China, Mr. Wolfowitz attended a G-20 summit of industrialized and developing nations and visited World Bank project sites in the impoverished northwestern province of Gansu.