Third Session
10th National People's Congress and
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference

Wen Reiterates Longing for Harmonious Society

While high-speed economic growth and dramatic social changes continue to distinguish China across the globe, the country's leadership is eyeing a smoother ride on its development path by setting forth a guideline prioritizing harmony.

In his government work report delivered at the opening meeting of the Third Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Saturday, Premier Wen Jiabao said the government will "strive to solve outstanding problems vital to the immediate interests of the people, safeguard social stability and build a harmonious socialist society" in 2005.

"The pursuit after harmony will largely decide China's future political, economic, social and cultural moves," said Xiao Zhuoji, an economist from Beijing University and also a member of China's top advisory body.

The concept of "harmonious socialist society" was first launched at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and further interpreted by Chinese President Hu Jintao at a routine high-level Party seminar held prior to this year's sessions of NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to set the keynote of this year's social and economic development.

A harmonious society features democracy, the rule of law, equity, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality. It gives full scope to people's talent and creativity, enables all the people to share the social wealth brought by reform and development, and forges an ever-closer relationship between the people and government.

"These things will result in enduring stability and unity," said Hu, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

Sustained reforms and opening-up over the past two and half decades have resulted in prosperity for many Chinese citizens, but social problems such as corruption, an income gap between interior areas and coastal regions as well as between urban and rural population, unemployment, poverty, poor production safety and pollution are among top concerns of the country's vast commoner stratum.

Failure of the country's compulsory education to reach rural children and the lack of full-fledged health and medical care systems, are among others protruding social problems.

Against a backdrop of varied problems and conflicts, Chinese leaders have on many occasions voiced their concerns about "balancing the interests between different social groups, avoiding conflicts and making sure people live a safe and happy life in a politically stable country".

"The government has begun to pay more attention to what economic growth means to social development," said Qiu Dong, a professor with the Central University of Finance and Economics and a deputy to the NPC.

Actually, a range of measures has been taken in many social spheres to better serve Chinese people's vital needs, in compliance with the "people-centered" concept repeatedly underscored by the Chinese leadership.

In an effort to better handle peoples' complaints, China revised the regulations in this regard to make it easier for petitioners to make complaints and reduce the causes of petitions. The new regulations concerning petitions will go into effect on May 1 of this year.

In order to "unite with people from all social strata that have contributed to the prosperity of the nation", the All-China Federation of Trade Unions have recently decided to make private businessmen eligible to the title of " national model and advanced workers," an honor usually given to workers in public sectors.

In his Saturday's government work report, Wen also called for more efforts to be made to serve the "harmony" drive.

In 2005, 10.9 billion yuan (1.3 billion US dollars) will be allocated from the central budget to help laid-offs to be re-employed, 2.6 billion yuan (316.7 million US dollars) more than the last year. "Local budgets will also increase allocations for the reemployment drive," said Wen.

The Chinese leader also pledged to extend down-to-earth aid to rural areas to further spread compulsory education.

Starting this year, poor rural students covered by a national poverty alleviation plan will be provided with free textbooks and exempted from miscellaneous fees and those staying on campus will receive living allowances. The policy will be extended to all Chinese rural regions by 2007, according to Wen.

As an effort to help the country's 900 million farmers, a major issue with a bearing on China's pursuit of harmony, government departments at all levels across the country are urged to allocate more than 200 billion yuan (about 24 billion US dollars) this year for this purpose, said an official of the State Council here Friday.

While addressing the China's chronicle coal mine safety problems, the Chinese Premier vowed 3 billion yuan (365 million US dollars) to be spent in 2005 to "help state-owned collieries upgrade their safety technologies".

During the past five months, China has seen a number of fatal coal mine accidents and the "industry in black" was smeared with the blood of hundreds of miners.

Last October, a coal mine blast claimed 148 lives at the Daping Coal Mine in central China's Henan Province. Two months later, a similar accident killed 166 people in Tongchuan, a city in northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In February, a devastating gas explosion in Fuxin, a city in northeast China's Liaoning Province devoured lives of 214 miners.

"We should draw on the bitter lessons paid in blood that these catastrophic accidents have taught," said Wen.

The Premier also pledged to continue reforming the income distribution system, another top concern of the general public as indicated by many online polls done before this year's CPPCC and NPC sessions.

To tackle the widespread discontent with graft and corruption, the government will "continue to increase transparency of its work and boost popular confidence in government".

"Whatever work the government should do, it should do well," said the Premier, "We will handle conflicts among the people correctly."

(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2005)

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