Da China Daily del 06/10/2005
Originale su http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-10/06/content_482890.htm

Beijing targets a harmonious society in Five-Year Plan

China's ruling Communist Party has listed building a harmonious society as a strategic goal to ensure stability while seeking continuous economic giant steps in carving out its next five-year growth plan.

The 300-strong Party Central Committee will convene its fifth plenary session in Beijing this weekend, scheduled from October 8-12, to discuss ways to thwart growing disharmonious elements, such as growth disparity between developed coastal provinces and underdeveloped west, rising gap of the haves and have-nots, urban environmental pollution, and corruption.

It is timely for China's top leadership to consider a course revision to prevent the horse-cart not to be rocked over, experts said.

The idea of building a harmonious society marks the maturity of the Chinese Communist Party as a ruling party with serving the people as its guideline, they said.

"The construction of a harmonious society" was initiated by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who, while addressing a high-level seminar at the Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in February, urged the state and Party leaders to prioritize social harmony on their agenda.

In Hu's words, "A harmonious society should feature democracy, the rule of law, equality, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality."

This focus shift is timely, as many observers point out, as China is confronted with increasingly acute potential social unrest caused by disparity in development and distribution, inequality, injustice, and corruption, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The "harmonious society" initiative has stemmed out of awareness of the social problems cropping up in the process of China's rapid economic development, which might hold back the country's sustainable progress and brew up into real social crisis if they are not dealt with properly, said Dr. Ding Yuanzhu, a sociologist with the Academy of Macro-economic Research under the State Development & Reform Commission.

In fact, noted Ding, China has never put "harmonious society" above economic progress. "The idea of social harmony demonstrates the central government's determination to overcome thorny social problems caused by inadequate policy decisions and overheated economic development."

During the past 26 years, China has created an economic miracle with GDP growing at a dazzling rate of 9.5 percent annually. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the total amount of GDP hit 13.65 trillion yuan (US$1.68 trillion) in 2004.

However, the economic success does not necessarily promise social stability. "A most severe social crisis often erupts at the time when economy reaches its most flourishing stage. Ominously, a range of negative social elements have emerged. These include widening disparities between the rich and the poor and between urbanites and farmers, worsening unemployment, and deteriorating ecological system," Ding said.


FARMERS LEFT BEHIND

Farmers may feel the inequity more than other groups. In the process of rapid urbanization, millions of farmers have lost land and have been neglected in the economic growth. Some have come to cities, taking almost all the poorly-paid jobs.

Among them are Zhang Yong and his wife from a southwestern mountainous village, who came to Beijing, the national capital, five years ago, making a living by selling vegetables in a residential area full of high-ranking officials in western Beijing.

Parents of two teenagers, the couple gets up at 2:00 am in the morning to get the freshest vegetables at the best possible price at a wholesale market. The 35-year-old husband complains, "We have to work 17 hours a day on average to make ends meet, earning 800 yuan a month. There is no money for entertainment. At best we just take a day off."

Even so, the wife says, "life still is better than it is in the countryside, where you might not get in anything if the weather doesn't bless you. Here in Beijing, you can always have some cash in your pockets at the end of year."

China now has 120 million rural surplus labor seeking a life in the cities. There are another 30 million of unemployed population, including laid-off workers. These people represent an important stake of social disharmony, Ding warned.

"If they cannot savor the sweetness of economic prosperity, their growing discontent may touch off an appalling social disaster," Xinhua quoted Ding as saying.

Zhang the vegetable vendor might not understand the meaning of social harmony. Yet, a laid-off steel worker who is now working as a traffic assistant on Beijing's Chang'an Boulevard told Xinhua: "Equity and justice must be the core. Without that, no people can hope for harmony. "

His remarks are in keeping with what Hu Jintao has warned: Without equity and justice, people won't be happy.


BALANCING DIFFERENT INTEREST GROUPS

Conflicts of various economic interests are primary among the people's internal contradictions, said Jing Tiankui, director for the Sociology Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Building a harmonious society is a long-term and systematic project. Balancing different interests cannot be delayed any longer."

Beijing is working hard to guarantee that the people's rights and interests are honored. In a bid to improve employment, it has decided to put in 10.9 billion yuan on reemployment projects and 3 billion yuan to improve industrial safety.

And, it has pledged to exempt 730 million farmers from agricultural taxation, and provide subsidies to rural families which cannot afford their children's education.

"The rural population plays an important role in fostering a harmonious society," Dr. Ding siad. "Only when the poor farmers live a better life, can the whole society expect to live in harmony and stability."

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