05/30/2006, 00.00
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"New socialist countryside" threatens to flop

The project to improve the plight of peasants and to endear the Communist Party to them is coming up against the tendency of local leaders to get rich and to seize land.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A campaign for a "new Socialist countryside" launched in March has started off on the wrong footing. The aim of the project is to tackle problems faced by 700 million peasants and to make them love the Chinese Communist Party once more.

Anarchic economic development in the past two decades has led to multiple disadvantages for rural areas: land seizure, poverty, migration to cities, and water pollution. All these factors have prompted peasants (more than 75%) to abandon the Communist Party, and have also led to growing social revolt that worries the leadership. 

At the National People's Congress last March, Premier Wen Jiabao launched a programme for a "new Socialist countryside", to resolve the problems faced by peasants, with investments in the sectors of health, educational and development infrastructure. Part of the project is a school for party cadres to make them more aware of the situation. Courses started last month and will continue for another eight months. Around 5,300 local leaders and heads of section of more than 2,000 counties are eligible for the courses being held in Beijing at the Central Party School, in Shanghai, Jiangxi, and Shaanxi.

But the organizers themselves have complained the aims are too general. Liu Xutao, from the National School of Administration, said: "It should be an opportunity to share opinions but it is hard to say how effective the week-long training will be as it lacks detailed measures and vision."

One of the aims of the course is to stem a tendency among local leaders to seize agricultural land belonging to villagers to use it for useless projects or schemes that would benefit only themselves.

Recently, using the funds of the "new Socialist countryside" campaign, 110 villas were built in a village in Zhejiang despite villagers' opposition. Other land seizures were recorded in Guangdong, Henan, Shanxi and the outskirts of large cities.

Peng Zhenhui, of Peking University, said despondently: "These courses will only have a very limited effect… and will not manage to solve real problems".

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