03/05/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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China’s social inequalities, a “serious problem”, says Wen Jiabao

In his address to the National People’s Congress in Beijing, the prime minister pledges help to farmers and the urban poor. His goal is to contain the growing social dissatisfaction. Inflation is the main factor of instability, Wen acknowledges. The goal now is to bring it under 4 per cent.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Concern over social stability was at the core of Wen Jiabao’s opening address to the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. The prime minister acknowledged before the gathering of 3,000 delegates that inequalities created by economic growth are a “serious problem”.

"We must make improving the people's lives a pivot linking reform, development and stability,” Wen said. At the same time, the government must “make sure people are content with their lives and jobs, [that] society is tranquil and orderly and the country enjoys long-term peace and stability," he added.

The prime minister’s address is the most important statement of the year delivered by a Chinese politician, akin to the State of the Union address in the United States.

The government’s aim is to reach a rate of economic growth of 8 per cent and keep inflation to within 4 per cent, Wen explained. “Recently, prices have risen fairly quickly and inflation expectations have increased,” he warned.

“This problem concerns the people's well-being, bears on overall interests and affects social stability. We must, therefore, make it our top priority in macroeconomic control to keep overall price levels stable."

The Chinese leader also made some promises. Domestic demand would be stimulated, he said, with subsidies to farmers and the urban poor increased. “Expanding domestic demand is a long-term strategic principle and basic standpoint of China's economic development as well as a fundamental means and an internal requirement for promoting balanced economic development”. The government would also "firmly curb the excessively rapid rise of housing prices in some cities".

Wen made no mention however of the “jasmine revolution” in the Middle East, a big headache for Chinese authorities and the object of a major pre-emptive crackdown in the mainland.

In view of this fear, the Beijing Daily echoed Wen’s emphasis on social stability, by warning against Arab-style protests. “Those people intent on concocting and finding Middle East-style news in China will find their plans come to nothing,” the paper said.

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