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Focus on Rural Improvements Is Big News Abroad
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International media reporting on the 4th Plenary Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) is taking an interest in China's efforts to develop poorer, rural areas and narrow the growing gap between rich and poor.


Many of those involved say there remains a lot of room for improvement.


"It's good to divert government funds into education and health care in these areas and make bank loans available. However, it's still a difficult job for the guiding principles to be implemented at grassroots level," said Allen Cheng, a reporter for US-based Bloomberg News, yesterday after hearing Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report in which he vowed China would build a "new socialist countryside."


Cheng said the government has been promising to spread prosperity to the countryside, home to some 800 million people, for a long time. However, much still needs to be done, he said.


More than 600 foreign journalists from 35 countries have registered to cover this year's plenary sessions of China's top legislature and political advisory body and Cheng's view has been echoed by many foreign reporters. 


Chua Chin Hon, China bureau chief for Straits Times in Singapore, said it was important that the problems of farmers were handled appropriately. An example was how land was used in agricultural areas. Protests against corruption and inequality had occurred in rural areas over recent years.


Of most interest is how much money the Chinese government will contribute to the new countryside project and how the policies are implemented.


Ouyang Song, deputy director of the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said China is now undergoing a transitional phase that will raise gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from US$1,000 to US$3,000, which indicates a 'golden time' for development but will also bring problems.


Chua said that's why as a foreign journalist he's particularly interested in China's efforts to redirect funds by shifting the government's priority on infrastructure investment from urban areas to the countryside.


Mayumi Otani, correspondent for The Mainichi newspaper in Japan, said she wanted to offer something useful for her readers back in Tokyo in addition to coverage of rural development and education.


"My focus is on resource conservation and energy saving," said Otani, who has been in China for two years, adding that Japanese companies are seeking cooperation with Chinese partners in such fields.


She said Japan is improving equipment and technology on energy saving and consumption of materials is on the decrease. Chinese policies concerning such business opportunities were warmly welcomed.


"I hope my reports will help expand Sino-Japanese cooperation in energy saving," she said with a smile.


Russian reporter Alexey Novosti said peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits continued to be a major topic for him as Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian put an end to the "National Unification Council" and the "National Unification Guidelines" late last month.


Among other questions on the reporters' minds are national defense, military spending and the 11th Five-Year Development Guidelines (2006-2010).


(China Daily March 6, 2006)

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