China's top Communist Party officials at a plenary meeting in Beijing are expected to adopt the "11th five-year plan" for economic and social development from 2006-2010, which will center on more even wealth distribution among its citizens.
The concept of "scientific development," first put forward by President Hu Jintao, will be enshrined into the plan. Beijing is also calling for the building of a society that will improve the lives of millions of farmers and poor urban dwellers currently left out of the country's economic boom, and therefore eradicating the roots of social unrest, observers said.
Despite the Party awoken to the inequity concern, it is unclear what can be done to help the poor. Some economists have said China is witnessing a stage of economic development in which many people are going to be left behind, raising the danger of unrest.
An editorial in the The People’s Daily Saturday noted that life had improved for all classes of Chinese society, including farmers, as a result of the changes. But problems have cropped up in the past two years, it said, adding that China must make "macroeconomic adjustments" in the next stage so the machine runs more smoothly.
The new Five-Year growth roadmap, is expected to put greater emphasis on sustainable but relatively fast, non-wasteful and environmentally-friendly growth.
President Hu Jintao, who is general secretary of the ruling Party, has chaired the crucial meeting.
The scientific development concept will become the guiding theory for building a "harmonious society," said Yan Shuhan, a professor with the Central Party School.
They are discussing the country's five-year development plan, with the view of seeking "sustainable, healthy, co-ordinated and rapid development," Yan said.
The focus of the proposed five-year plan indicates the Party and the Government have awoken to the problems with the model of growth China has been following for the past 27 years since economic reforms were launched in 1978. China has relied largely on manufacturing low value added products for other countries, using its land, natural resources and labor, the Xinhua news agency said.
It should instead move towards the model adopted by developed countries -- depending more on technological innovations and less on resources and labor for growth, it said.
Over the years, government coffers and state-run banks have funded many viable infrastructure projects, but also unworthy ones such as city plazas and high-tech parks that remain empty.
Corruption and lack of accountability played a big part in the wasteful spending as local officials are able to pocket kickbacks from developers and others, and face little reprimand for pushing through unnecessary projects.
Such "blind" investment has led to a waste in resources such as steel and energy, causing prices to shoot up and raising fears of a depletion of resources.
This has also led to large-scale environmental degradation, with many of China's rivers and lakes polluted and many Chinese cities blanketed with filthy air.
The model of growth adopted, which has placed the emphasis on China's coastal regions, has also created a serious income gap between urban and rural areas, with a majority of the rural population falling far behind in living standards as compared to city dwellers.
Unless farmers' incomes rise, it is feared China will not be able to continue growing at the current rapid pace of more than 9 percent a year.
The next five years is a "golden development period" but also fraught with challenges, Xinhua said.
Zheng Xinli, deputy director of the Central Policy Research Office, attributed China's growth to the huge investment and excessive consumption of natural resources.
Growth must be achieved through scientific progress and improvement in laborers' quality, Zheng said.
From 1979 to 2004, China's economy grew by a blistering 9.4 per cent annual average, making it the sixth largest economy in the world. However, China's consumption of natural resources is alarming: its gross domestic product accounts for 4 per cent of the world, while its consumption of water accounts for 15 per cent of the world, steel for 28 per cent and cement for 50 per cent.
(China Daily October 10, 2005)