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10th NPC & CPPCC, 2007> Backgrounds
UPDATED: March 9, 2007 china.org.cn
NPC Starts Annual Session with Focus on Social Harmony

China's parliament started its annual full session Monday morning with Premier Wen Jiabao announcing a series of measures to promote social harmony.

"Social harmony and stability as well as a better life are the aspiration of all the people and an important goal for the work of the government," Wen said, when delivering a work report to 2,890 lawmakers present at the Fifth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC).

In his 36-page report, Wen extolled the government's "great achievements" in 2006, but also admitted that "a number of serious problems affecting the people's interests have not been properly addressed" and that "life remains difficult for many low-income citizens."

China's rapid economic growth has brought nearly 200 million people out of poverty over the past two decades, but the unbalanced development has also left millions of the poor struggling in agony with rising educational, medical and housing costs.

Wen promised in his report that the government will invest heavily this year to address problems concerning people's daily lives, especially in the rural areas.

"This year, we will completely stop collecting tuition and miscellaneous fees from all rural students receiving compulsory education," Wen announced, adding that the policy will ease the financial burden of 150 million rural families with children attending primary or middle schools.

Wen also announced an ambitious plan to set up "a nationwide basic minimum cost of living allowance system" for the rural residents, who traditionally had no access to social security coverage.

"This is another major measure in the work to resolve issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers and build a harmonious society," he said.

Other major spending plans include a 201.9 billion yuan investment from the central government to improve the social security network, and a 10.1 billion yuan subsidy from the central budget to expand the coverage of a cooperative medicare system to 80 percent of China's rural areas.

The premier's announcements have won the hearts of the lawmakers, who repeatedly applauded throughout Wen's speech.

"It's the government's responsibility to serve the people and address their concerns. We'll see how the government implements its promises to achieve social harmony," NPC deputy Kang Fengying told Xinhua outside the meeting hall.

Against the backdrop of a host of social problems and conflicts, the ruling Communist Party of China has in recent years brought up the concept of "social harmony."

Chinese leaders have stressed on many occasions that to build a "harmonious socialist society," which features "democracy, a rule of law, equity, sincerity, fraternity, vitality, stability and the harmony of humans and nature," is a historic task for the country.

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