Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 4 News List

China's leaders battling to tackle income gap

AFP , BEIJING

A farmer drives his tractor through the farming village of Zhongjulou, Anhui Province, on Thursday. A widening income gap that threatens to tear China apart is likely to be a top agenda item when its parliament kicks off its annual full meeting next weekend.

PHOTO: AFP

A widening income gap that threatens to tear China apart is likely to be a top agenda item when its parliament kicks off its annual full meeting next weekend.

The 3,000 delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) will arrive this week on trains and planes from across the nation, just as tensions between the haves and the have-nots seem to be reaching a critical level.

"There is genuine concern. China's leaders certainly accord priority to the maintenance of political and social stability," said Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), a China watcher at the City University of Hong Kong.

Signs are multiplying that Chinese society is unraveling at the seams, especially in rural areas where 715 million people are groaning under the twin weights of abusive officialdom and economic growth a fraction of that in the cities.

Forty million farmers have lost their land as ever larger areas are being appropriated for industrial and residential uses, and many are enraged over what they see as inadequate compensation.

"A lot of the older peasants, how can they find other employment? They have lost their land, they have no money, they have no social security, they cannot find jobs. There are bound to be serious, serious social problems," Cheng said.

"So the issue of proper compensation for the peasants whose land has been appropriated by the authorities, as well as the issue of employment for them, including job training, becomes a very, very important issue," he said.

The Chinese government has promised to help the farmers, and Premier Wen Jiabao's (溫家寶) work report, to be delivered on the first day of the NPC gathering on March 5, could provide clues about what exactly it plans to do.

A more precise indication of how much it is willing to spend on solving the problem could emerge from the detailed government budget to be unveiled by Finance Minister Jin Renqing (金人慶) early in the series of meetings.

Rural issues could also be a focus for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a toothless advisory body that begins meeting on Friday.

The 11th five-year plan that kicks off this year will be on the NPC's agenda, and the heated discussions will serve to show the blueprint is more than just a relic.

This story has been viewed 2729 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top