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Public Warms to Premier's Speech
Chinese residents were reassured yesterday that Premier Zhu Rongji is listening to their call for raising incomes of farmers and securing basic standards of living for low-income urban families.

He made key pledges on both subjects during his address in Beijing yesterday.

"He did strike a chord with the public, especially for farmers as he spent quite a heavy chunk of the address on how to make rural people better off," said Chen Li, a college student from Peking University.

Liang Hongbin, a railway employee working in the Shanghai Railway Station, said he was also encouraged by Zhu's vow to improve the livelihood of needy households in urban areas.

Liang pinches pennies every day as his family, which includes his wife and son who is in college, only has a disposable income of 1,200 yuan (US$144) a month. His wife was laid off from a local textile firm two years ago and now sells tea-boiled eggs to help make ends meet. "Money is the biggest issue as I have to feed the family and pay for my son's education," said Liang.

State-owned enterprises have had to axe workers in the past few years to better compete in the global market. Yet a comprehensive social welfare network is not yet in place, and many unemployed people in urban regions are either without money or have not yet been paid by their former employers.

Concerns are rising over the effects China's World Trade Organization membership will have on people's lives. Many people fear they will lose their jobs or be unable to find work as foreign competition will put more heat on domestic companies.

Guo Feng, associate professor of Renmin University in Beijing, said what impressed him most was Zhu's renewed vow to further crack down on fake goods, fraud and shoddy drugs.

Guo, who followed Zhu's speech live on CCTV, said the premier fully understood the problems.

"He highlighted two issues -scrapping the regional protection barriers and strengthening law enforcement, which have long been two of the toughest nuts to crack."

Other residents like John Huang, partner of AllBright Law Office, had an interest in Zhu's remarks on the issue of experts.

Huang said Zhu's talk of training skilled professionals in international finance, accounting, law, and consulting sent a signal that China is ready to meet the WTO challenge.

"Right now, many government officials and managers in State-owned industrial groups are technology and science majors, they are not familiar with global rules," said Huang.

Huang said the government should recruit more experts from private firms or those working for global companies to fill government positions and management-level posts to help China better compete in a rules-based market.

(China Daily March 6, 2002)

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