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Building a New Socialist Countryside Urgent Task
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"Building a new socialist countryside" is not only a long-term goal but also an urgent task of China, said Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Office of Central Financial Work Leading Group on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference held at the State Council Information Office, Chen said that the primary reason for the reintroduction of the notion is that China's economic and social development have entered a new historical period.

The government is now more economically competent to render support to the development of agriculture and rural areas and to coordinate the economic and social development between urban and rural areas, he said.

According to Chen, there are at least five reasons for putting forward the concept of "building a new socialist countryside".

Agriculture is still not a foundation sound enough to meet the requirements of China's overall economic and social development and the improvement of people's livelihood, said Chen.

China's grain output reached 484 million tons in 2005, still insufficient to meet demand and nearly 30 million tons lower than the record high, he said.

Moreover, the lack of farmland and water resources both constitute bottlenecks limiting the development of agriculture.

More investment in the agricultural sector is required to improve production conditions, enhance the application of science and technology and increase the output of farmlands, said Chen.

The widening gap between urban and rural areas is another reason for putting forward the new concept.

According to Chen, the average yearly per capita net income of Chinese farmers was 3,255 yuan (US$402) in 2005, while the disposal income of urban dwellers was 10,493 yuan, 3.22 times the income of farmers.

Meanwhile, the rural-urban gap is more dramatic in infrastructure and social undertakings such as education, health care and culture, which has formed another factor hindering the improvement of farmers, said Chen.

Chen said that with China's rapid economic growth, conditions for industry to help boost agriculture and urban areas have become available.

Moreover, a new socialist countryside is an essential requirement for expanding domestic demand, said Chen.

The farmer's low income and lack of purchasing power have adversely affected the expansion of China's domestic demand as only 32.9 percent of the total retail sales of consumer products in China were realized in counties and rural areas under counties in 2005, said Chen.

Building a new socialist countryside is also an essential requirement for building a harmonious socialist society, achieving social fairness and justice and making the benefits of economic and social development available to all people, said Chen.

(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2006)

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