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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China economy faces 'crucial' year: Wen

March 7, 2010

By Marianne Barriaux
Agence France-Presse (AFP)
March 4, 2010

BEIJING -- China's government Friday predicted
another year of rapid expansion while vowing to
tame inflation and curb runaway loan growth to
forestall a risky bubble in the world's third-largest economy.

In his annual address to open parliament, Premier
Wen Jiabao also pledged to help ensure the
benefits of growth are shared more equitably
among China's 1.3 billion people, in a sign of
concern over a widening wealth gap and its potential to spark unrest.

Wen said China would target eight percent
economic growth in 2010, which he called a
"crucial year" in the battle against the global slowdown.

"This year the main targets we have set for
economic and social development are increasing
GDP by approximately eight percent... (and)
holding the rise in consumer prices to around
three percent," Wen told lawmakers.

With the world downturn exposing the volatility
of foreign trade, the agenda for the National
People's Congress will be topped by Beijing's
efforts to retool the economy away from its long reliance on cheap exports.

"This is a crucial year for continuing to deal
with the global financial crisis, maintaining
steady and rapid economic development and
accelerating the transformation of the pattern of
economic development," Wen said.

He offered a fresh pledge to boost domestic
consumption as a means to diversify the economy,
and vowed to maintain a "proactive fiscal
policy". China launched a 586-billion-dollar
stimulus package in 2008. Related article: Need to rein in property prices: Wen

Wen said China would keep the value of the yuan
"basically stable" in 2010, a stance sure to rile
the country's key Western trading partners, which
say the currency is kept low to boost exports.

China annually sees thousands of protests --
often violent -- by those who have missed out on
the nation's economic boom, and Wen promised to
expand the social security umbrella.

"We will not only make the pie of social wealth
bigger by developing the economy, but also
distribute it well on the basis of a rational
income distribution system," he said.

As such, he promised to reform rules that
restrict social welfare services to people who
relocate from their hometowns -- a residency
system known as the "hukou" that is a key grip of
China's 230 million migrant workers.

"We will carry out reform of the household
registration system and relax requirements for
household registration in towns and small and medium-sized cities," he said.

China expects to run up a budget deficit of 1.05
trillion yuan (154 billion dollars), up 10
percent from last year, Wen said, as it maintains
the hefty stimulus plan and upgrades social security.

He also acknowledged government concern over a
flood of lending that has caused inflation fears
to spike, saying authorities would slash new bank
loans by about a fifth in 2010 to 7.5 trillion yuan.

The NPC has no real legislative power but meets
to rubber-stamp the decisions of the Communist
Party elite in an annual ritual aimed at putting
a veneer of democracy on China's rigid political system.

On the eve of the congress opening, China
unveiled the smallest increase in its military
budget for at least 10 years and vowed that its
rapid military modernisation posed no threat to
other countries. Related article: China to keep modernising the military

As is customary during major political events in
China, security has been tightened in the capital to prevent disruption.

Extra police have been deployed and a force of
more than 700,000 including civilian volunteers
are helping to keep public order, according to
official media reports that dubbed the effort a
"great moat" of security around Beijing. Related
article: Corruption battle a 'high priority'

There are up to 3,000 NPC delegates, including
many from troubled minority regions like Tibet
and Xinjiang. Related article: Plans to develop Xinjiang, Tibet
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