People-Centered Socio-Economic Development

Delegates attending the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are found to become bolder, franker and more outspoken than ever in and outside their meeting places, giving the expression of the salient people- focused feature of the social and economic plan under the scrutiny of the top legislature and the top advisory body.

Sensitive to changes, the mass media have immediately picked up the mood, giving quite a full coverage of the keynote speeches and the discussions by NPC deputies and CPPCC members, focusing on how to increase in the income of the citizens, especially rural folks and how to improve their living standards.

"Holiday economy", for example, was brought into focus of group discussion. It is perhaps the most successful government-initiated economic activity, which has not only spurred people's spending but also made their life more enjoyable.

In 2000, 130 million Chinese were reported to have traveled around the country during the week-long holiday periods of Spring Festival (Chinese lunar new year), the International Labor Day and the National Day (October, 1), yielding 57 billion yuan of invisible earnings and reviving domestic demand that had been dull for quite a long period of time.

Chinese scientists and even the whole nation were amazed last month to see President Jiang Zemin presenting to Wu Wenjun, a Chinese mathematician, and Yuan Longping, known as "father of hybrid-rice", each with a five-million-yuan check as the top science and technology award for the year of 2000, the highest prize ever given to a Chinese scientist.

In his report to the NPC session on the draft outline of China's 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) for economic and social development, Premier Zhu Rongji promised to introduce the annual salary system to managers and backbone technical personnel of state-owned enterprises and allow them to hold stock options.

In fact, the already booming private sector and personal development have received full government support and encouragement.

Meanwhile, the people would be even more pleased to hear the Premier's promise of allowing employees to go on vacation with pay.

Such touch of nature is keenly felt in every passage of the draft outline of the social and economic development plan.

Even the number of economic indicators, which used to be crammed into a development plan, has been trimmed to 38 from the previous 105 and one third of the 38 targets are closely associated with people's daily life, such as the quality of material and cultural life of the people and their living environment.

As a matter of fact, China has so far knocked up a relatively sound management and legal system in environmental protection since it launched the sustainable development strategy in 1996.

By the strategy, the government will focus efforts on raising the people's living standards, guaranteeing a harmonious coexistence of man and nature, man and environment while striving for a sustainable, rapid and healthy economic growth so that the future generations would not grumble about the unbridled exploitation of natural resources and short-term behavior with regard to environment.

True to its words, the central government has ordered the shut- down of wasteful and polluting enterprises and encouraged, instead, the development of real estate, community service, tourism, catering service, and entertainment industries that are closer to the daily life of the people.

In the rural areas, the government encourages the development of ecological and other environment-friendly agricultural activities. So far, it has launched more than 2,000 demonstrative projects in the building of eco-agriculture across the country, covering 13.7 percent of China's farmland.

Tao Chengwu, a farmer NPC deputy from Hubei Province, was even moved to tears when talking about the government's care for farmers. "Premier Zhu devoted one-tenth of his government report to problems concerning farmers," he said. "I feel the passion in between the words spoken by leaders and common deputies alike. They have truly spoken what the grassroots cadres want to say in their heart."

The touch of nature was even more strongly felt on March 9, 2001 when the Supreme People's Court made a judicial interpretation, clarifying that mental damages inflicted in tort cases shall be adequately compensated for.

The draft amendment to the marriage law is another salient example. For the first time in China, the top legislature has outlawed family violence, indicating intensified intervention in domestic violence to protect the lawful rights and interests of women who are often the victims of the unlawful behavior.

Beneath the once tough family planning policy, there have appeared a measure of soft touch. "Private chat room" has become more and more popular among country women. There, they are free to talk with doctors on puberty care, premarital hygiene, wedding night experience, gestation health, contraception, menopause care, and prenatal and postnatal care.

Even traffic police have begun to show some gentilesse in traffic control. Such rude slogans as "Violations shall be punished" have totally disappeared. In their place are such eye- catching banners inscribed with "No haste, just take a break when red light's on" and "A good measure of care would put your family full at ease" and other slogans to caution drivers.

In remote Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the regional government has decided earlier this year to allow employees to go and visit their inland family and relatives with pay every three years instead of four formerly.

Even the once banned lottery has occupied a place in the people's life. Welfare lottery and sports lottery have created quite a number of upstarts with the windfalls while beefing up the welfare undertakings for the handicapped and sports facilities.

The government has worked out a package of incentives to encourage people to spend their money and improve their life instead of urging them to zip up their purses and tighten their belts while the government is going all out to advocate for thrifty government spending.

"A nation full of human interest and sentiments makes people feel happy from the bottom of their hearts,", said NPC deputy Chi Li,who is a well-known woman novelist. "China is moving rapidly toward this direction."

(People’s Daily 03/15/2001)