09/30/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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In a few days Central Committee plenum to start country makeover

Party leaders are expected to push for wide-ranging reforms that will reorganise rural areas, eliminate rural-urban gap and improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Experts say people are waiting for democratic reforms and the recognition of their rights. Now it is a time to act, not make promises.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A statement announced that the third plenum of the 17th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will take place this coming 9 October. The four-day meeting of the country’s top leaders is expected to tackle important reforms, especially the reorganisation and development of rural areas.

Agricultural reform is an urgent problem that involves hundreds of millions of people. It must reconcile environmental protection with development needs, chronic poverty and rural backwardness with the need to ensure food supplies and safety.

For years the Politburo has tried to eliminate the social and economic gap between cities and the countryside that drives every year hundreds of millions of people to the cities to work in construction or manufacturing.

Analysts expect the land regime to be changed so as to protect ordinary people and farmers against local authorities who often seize their properties for little compensation.

Widespread dissatisfaction with corruption, lack of transparency and freedom of the press and growing social unrest are some of the issues that must be addressed as a priority.

This year the mainland celebrated 30 years of economic reform. But “China has come to the crossroads where economic development is nearing its limit without necessary political reform,” Professor Hu Xingdou, from the Beijing Institute of Technology

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, he said that “stagnant reform, especially in the political arena, will inevitably affect stability and deal a blow to the legitimacy of the party's rule.”

Party leaders “will have to [. . .] begin to make some concrete steps to ease social tensions and public dissatisfaction, rather than issuing non-binding appeals for government officials to carry out,” studies.

Mr Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have repeatedly talked about democracy, offering hope to a vast number of people disappointed with the government after years of waiting, but this is turning into dissatisfaction as years go by without any significant change.

The loss of faith is especially crying in rural areas, where the system of collective land ownership has discouraged individual farmers and hampered output, leaving rural population behind and turning the countryside into a hotbed of disputes between local authorities and people over land rights and pollution.

The recent spate of scandals, especially in mining and food safety, is also expected to be on the agenda.

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