Minding the gap, Wen pledges to focus on farmers

It’s really extraordinary. if you scan all the news stories coming out about China in recent days all around the world there is a new and rather sudden emphasis on one topic — the gap between China’s rich and poor.

So it’s consistent that at the Party Congress in Beijing today, Wen laid out a strategy for economic stability, promising that agriculture is the government’s top priority in the year ahead.

Premier Wen Jiabao promised to increase spending on agriculture, education, job creation and social security this year as part of efforts to provide more assistance to the poor.

Speaking of the huge wealth gap between cities and countryside, Mr Wen says agriculture remains the government’s priority this year.

Wen said the government is planning more direct and forceful measures to support agriculture and boost farmers’ income. The central government will pump 30 billion yuan into the agricultural sector, a 20 per cent increase over last year, while urging local authorities to also invest more. The government will also abolish special agricultural taxes, such as those applied to the fish industry and certain cash crops – except tobacco – which will save farmers 4.8 billion yuan each year.

The premier also made a special mention of the government’s plan to help migrant labourers recover unpaid wages from property developers as well as from local authorities.

It sounds good, and underscores just how hard the current government is going to demonstrate its commitment to China’s disenfranchised, those left behind by the economic miracle, those who feel they have no choice but to be cockle pickers in England or migrant construction workers in Shanghai.

I know it’s boring when I say this, but I have to: I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they’ll put their money where their mouth is. After watching China for more than three years I’m impressed with the new leaders who are at least acknowledging the “gap crisis” and shining the spotlight on it.

According to the article, Jiang Zemin was there as Wen spoke, seated prominently to indicate his firm grip on power. He was no doubt pleased when Wen announced an 11.6-percent increase in military spending.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

Jiang is supposed to not have much power. Or, at least, he’s not influencing the decision making too much. That doesn’t mean he won’t come out of the woodwork someday though.

March 5, 2004 @ 11:17 pm | Comment

I’d say Jiang still have tremendous power, considering 5 of the 9 members of the politburo standing committee, the highest decision making body of the CCP, are his proteges, and his grip on the military is firmer than ever. Since the SARS crisis, he has chosen not to interfere with Hu and Wen’s running of the government but look for him and his faction to pounce on Hu/Wen at the first sign of trouble with the reforms.

March 6, 2004 @ 3:39 am | Comment

Jiang is supposed to not have much power.

Depends on who/what you’re reading. I’ve read he still wields enormous power. After all, Tiananmen Square showed that he who controls the military rules the country. I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say Jiang controls the military, but I know I’ve read that more than once.

March 6, 2004 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

Kudos to Richard for demonstrating that his mind really is an open one!

March 6, 2004 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.