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Party Congress Delegates Urge Rural Well-being

The objective of building an all-round "well-off" society, presented at the ongoing 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), will be surely welcomed and supported by millions of Chinese farmers.

But a truly "well-off" society can not come into being in China if its farmers are not leading a fairly comfortable life, Du Qinglin, a delegate to the five-yearly congress, said Friday.

"Compared with urban areas, the rural areas are facing more difficulties, especially in raising the income of farmers," he said. "Thus to realize a fully-fledged 'well-off' goal in the rural areas is a long-term and arduous historic task."

Part of the solution would be to speed up the transfer of surplus rural labor to non-agricultural industries and to cities and towns, the delegate told a discussion panel on General Secretary Jiang Zemin's report to the 16th Party Congress.

Du, also minister of agriculture, said: "We have realized that to make farmers better off, the number of the rural population has to be reduced."

The shift last year of at least 100 million farmers to non-farming sectors and urban areas had added 1,066 yuan (US$128) to each of their incomes.

In other words, 55 percent of the income of Chinese farmers was derived from non-agricultural areas in 2001, explained Du, quoting the latest statistics from his ministry.

Farmers are most supportive of the Party's expressed aim to build a better-off society for all in the new era.

Thanks to the country's opening-up and reform drive over the past two decades a solid ground has been laid for rural areas to attain the "well-off" goal, said Du.

The Engel Coefficient - the proportion of food expenditure in consumer expenditure - for rural people had dropped from 54 percent in 1988 to 47.7 percent last year, a key indicator that farmers are, more and more, witnessing a better standard of living.

To further upgrade the quality of their life, Du said his ministry intends to further improve agricultural modernization and industrialization, develop township and village enterprises and also the rural service sector, all of which can help absorb rural surplus labor.

The term "well-off" society or a well-to-do life-in Chinese xiaokang -- was used in a modern sense by China's architect of reform, Deng Xiaoping, in 1979 to describe the realization of a Chinese-style modernization.

It was later translated into 16 indices including per capita income, protein intake, life span, Engel Coefficient and telecommunications, according to Lu Shuzheng, an expert in Beijing.

Although the National Bureau of Statistics announced that the Chinese people had gone some way to achieving the xiaokang goal by the end of 2000, "the well-off life we are leading is still at a low level; it is not all-inclusive and is very uneven," Genaral Secretary Jiang Zemin said in his report to the 16th Party Congress.

(China Daily November 9, 2002)