China's lawmakers and senior advisors, together with the government, have paid close attention to the poor and the disadvantaged.
Frequently discussed are people's livelihood and hardships of the needy in documents of the on-going sessions of the legislative National People's Congress (NPC) and the advisory National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Addressing the current session of the Ninth NPC, Premier Zhu Rongji stressed that efforts must be made to increase the income of urban and rural residents, especially the low-income groups. He also called for care for people who are suffering from difficulties and efforts to earnestly lighten the burdens on farmers and further improve the social security system in cities and towns.
Zhu's call has found warm response from NPC deputies and CPPCC members.
Zhang Qianjiang, an NPC deputy from a steel plant in Liaoning Province, an industrial base of northeast China, said that the measures the Chinese government has taken in this regard will enable China to counter the negative impact on disadvantaged groups after China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Zhang himself is a steel maker. His wife works in a loss-making rubber plant and often cannot get paid. Zhang's elder brother also faces similar difficulties.
The fact is that the number of people like Zhang's wife has been on the rise in recent years in urban areas; many of them cannot afford a decent living, and rising medical charges keep them away from hospitals. In rural areas, 30 million people still remain below the poverty line.
The Chinese government intensified its efforts to help the needy since last year, mainly focusing on employment, medical services and social security.
The CPPCC National Committee organized a group of experts to study the issue and submitted an investigative report on urban needy people to senior Chinese leaders. The report points out, it is now a major task in China's economic development to create job opportunities for China's labor force, which amounts to one-fourth of the world's total, after China becomes capable of feeding its huge population of 1.3 billion.
Well-known scholar Hu Angang noted that it took four to five years since 1993 for China to made a "soft-landing" for its economy and effectively controlled runaway inflation. From now on, he said, it is imperative for the state to cut the high unemployment in urban areas while maintaining comparative high economic growth, making a second "soft landing" for the economy in four or five years.
In his report to the current NPC session, Zeng Peiyan, minister in charge of the State Development Planning Commission, has discussed ways to expand employment and raise people's purchasing power.
The state has been on the move to tackle the poverty reduction issue.
Since last year, China has spent 5.42 billion yuan (US$653 million) on providing minimum cost of living allowances for needy urban residents, a rise of 83 percent from the previous year. By the end of January this year, the number of people enjoying the minimum cost of living allowances had increased to 12.35 million from 3.82 million early last year, an increase of 223 percent.
To meet its targets for expanding employment, China has decided to first make breakthrough in community service industry, tourism and other sectors.
Local governments are increasing their investment in social security and China plans to adjust the income distribution policy to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee pointed out early this year that, in the process of advancing socialist modernization, it is a must to put the work to help the poor in a prominent place and for the work has direct bearing on the overall development of the nation.
(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2002)