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Steady Course Towards Scientific Development

At the heart of its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) lies China's ambition to build an overall well-off society.

The three-day Central Economic Work Conference has definitely geared the country up for an underlying change in its growth pattern a must to achieve that goal.

The annual economic meeting that ended yesterday in Beijing has set the course of policy for 2006. It laid down a solid foundation for the country to stride forward to bring into reality its new five-year blueprint.

China has made remarkable social and economic progress in the past five years with its economy growing by about 9 per cent annually. Soaring trade volumes and accelerated inflow of foreign investment also prove its rapid integration with the global economy in many ways, a course that has only just begun.

With so much accomplished, it is fairly reasonable to assume a good start for the new five-year programme starting next year.

However, a clear-cut emphasis on boosting domestic demand indicates that the Chinese authorities are resolved to step out of the comfort zone of extensive growth.

Breakneck investment growth in some overheated sectors had tested the country's limits in resources and environment in recent years. Meanwhile, rising trade surplus added to the difficulties that China, as an emerging world manufacturing power, has had in entering the international market.

To seize the strategic opportunities to advance the country's modernization drive, a consensus has been reached that we must pursue scientific development. In other words, economic growth should be balanced and sustainable.

The new importance the country's top policy-makers attached to stimulating consumption, particularly in rural areas, marks a brave response to key challenges China is confronted with.

For many years, the contribution of domestic consumption to the national economy has lagged far behind that of investment and trade.

An expanded domestic demand will allow the country to rein in excessive investment growth that not only hampers the quality of economic growth but also hinders efficiency-oriented industrial restructuring. And a growing domestic market will also make China more appealing to foreign investors while helping realize balanced trade growth.

Yet, more important than its macro-economic implications, the pro-consumption policy will remarkably raise Chinese people's living standards.

After more than two decades of robust economic growth, the masses are entitled to improved lots which can be measured by their consumption level.

Lack of adequate public spending on medical and education systems has caused many to tighten their purse strings.

In rural areas, the problem of consumption is not only about more governmental expenditure on construction in infrastructure. It is also the other side of the coin of raising farmers' income.

The currently low consumption level of the country's vast rural areas, where 60 per cent of the country's 1.3 billion population live, theoretically makes it a market of huge potential.

But to tap into it effectively, strenuous efforts must be made first to fatten farmers' pockets and thus narrow the income and development gap between rural and urban areas.

Fortunately, the policy-makers have included concrete measures for next year's work schedule to address all these challenges.

Let us hope that with good planning, we will make it halfway to success.

(China Daily December 2, 2005)

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