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BEIJING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his online chat with netizens here at 9 am Sunday jointly hosted by the central government website (www.gov.cn) and Xinhua News Agency website (www.news.cn).|
He also said that the government is striving to ensure that the people live a comfortable life with security and confidence in the period of 2011-2015.
China's development blueprint for the coming five years will place high emphasis on the efforts to improve the people's livelihood, Wen said.
To enhance the people's living standards is "our work's starting point as well as the final aim," he said.
Greater efforts will be made to boost social development and progress, especially in those key sectors and aspects concerning national development and mass interests, the premier said.
Premier Wen held online chats with netizens on Feb 28, 2009 and Feb 27, 2010, respectively.
Major Issues Discussed:
Wen: China's rise lies in talents, education, not GDP
"The whole world is talking about China's rise, and what the people talk about most is (China's) GDP. But I think China's rise lies in talents and education," he said.
He said he attaches greater importance to two other figures: the proportion of education expenditure in GDP and the proportion of scientific R&D expenditure in production.
"That concerns our nation's future," he said.
He also said an important aspect for China's higher-learning education reform is to encourage students' creative spirit and independent thinking, in a bid to foster more high-calibre talents.
More than 6 million students graduate from universities in China every year.
China to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP
Wen Jiabao said that the country aims to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 16 to 17 percent by 2015 from 2011 levels.
"The target should be met through solid efforts," Wen made the pledge during an online chat with netizens.
It is a rather arduous work to reach the goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by around 20 percent from 2005 levels by the end of 2010, he said," Even so, we achieved a 19.1 percent decrease."
Wen criticized the mandatory black-out of residential power supply by local governments. He decried such actions as "self-deceptive" and harmful to people's lives, ordering the localities to resume residential power supply immediately.
The goal of energy saving and emission cut should be met through the closure of high energy-consuming enterprises such as small power plants and steel mills, he noted.
Over the past five years, China has gradually replaced outdated thermal power plants with environmentally-friendly ones, saving more than 300 million tonnes of coal.
GDP growth target
Wen Jiabao said the government is to set its annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for the 2011-2015 period at 7 percent, highlighting the need to raise the quality of growth and improve the living standards of the people.
The target was lower than the 7.5 percent for the previous five years.
"We'll never seek high economic growth rate and big size at the price of environment, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption," Wen said during the online chat with Internet users.
The central government would adopt new performance evaluation criteria for local governments and give more weight to efficiency, environment protection and the people's living standards, said Wen.
China to rein in soaring consumer prices
In answering questions from Internet users concerning rising price pressures, Wen said he would not allow the consumer prices to surge unchecked in the country.
Maintaining the stability of prices has always been the priority of China's economic development as excessive increase in consumer prices would not only affect people's life but also hamper social stability, Wen said.
China's consumer price index (CPI), a major gauge of inflation, rose 4.9 percent in January from a year earlier as food prices increased 10.3 percent due to strengthening demand and a drought in key grain-growing regions. The CPI rose by 4.6 percent in December and 5.1 percent in November, a 28-month high.
The country has stepped up its fight against inflation as soaring prices of food and other commodities have stoked price pressures that pose growing risks to the economy. Government departments have already undertaken a slew of measures to keep prices in check, including programs aimed at boosting grain output, and offering subsidies to drought relief.
These measures have helped contain the rising trend of consumer prices, Wen said. "With these measures better implemented, we can be sure to succeed in easing inflation."
Taming housing prices
In response to complaints about soaring home prices, Wen also reiterated his determination to tame the country's runaway housing prices during his tenure as Premier.
The pledge came exactly a year after Wen vowed to tame "wild horse" housing prices during another on-line chat.
"We have to contain the excessive price growth and keep housing prices at a reasonable level," Wen said.
"I am still confident that we will achieve the goal of policies."
The government has announced a series of policies to discourage property speculation and curb excessive price rises, including higher down payments, higher lending rates, purchase limits and more housing supplies.
However, housing prices are still rising, with prices of new properties in the country's 70 major cities up again in January.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 10 of the 70 surveyed cities reported increases of more than 10 percent in new home prices.
Wen said the government would work to increase housing supplies, with 36 million affordable homes planned in the five years to 2015, including 10 million this year. Last year, 9.5 million affordable homes were built.
Wen also said the government would "resolutely" curb demand of home purchases for investment and speculation.
"We will use economic, legal and administrative methods if necessary to restrict speculation," Wen said, adding he was confident the measures would eventually reduce speculation.
The government would also crack down on illegal activities, including the hoarding of land and the delaying of sales to earn higher profits.
Cabinet to discuss raising threshold of personal income tax
While answering a netizen' online question about tax payment, Wen said the State Council, the Cabinet, would discuss on Wednesday a plan to raise the threshold of personal income tax.
The plan, if coming into effect, would benefit China's whole medium and low-income groups.
The plan would be delivered later to the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, for review, he said.
China to build more high-quality rural schools
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged the country will build more high-quality rural schools and take measures to make the nine-year compulsory education in cities more accessible to migrant workers' children.
The population of migrant workers in China has reached 240 million, and their children's education is one of their top concerns, Wen said during the online chat with Internet users.
Wen promised to send more teachers to rural schools and lift restrictions on household registration to allow migrant farmers to send their children to urban schools.
Migrant workers usually refer to farmers from impoverished regions who go to urban and more prosperous regions in search of jobs. Their children are usually left behind at home and taken care of by the seniors.
Funds for water conservation
Wen Jiabao said the government would build a more effective monitoring mechanism to ensure the funds allocated for water conservation projects not be embezzled.
China will make the investigation and punishment of corrupt principal officials the "primary task" of its anti-graft endeavor this year, Premier Wen said.
Wen said that the government would ramp up efforts to investigate and punish leading officials for power abuse, dereliction of duty and involvement in corruption scandals.
Pension hike for business retirees
Wen vowed that the Chinese government would continue to increase pension for business retirees to improve their lives.
In China, pension system reform has long been introduced in businesses, but not in governmental departments and institutions.
As a result, retirees in governmental departments and institutions have enjoyed much better treatment than those retiring from businesses, giving rise to discontents among the latter group of people.
To address the issue, the government had increased pension by up to 10 percent every year for business retirees over the past seven years, but their wages were still relatively low, Wen said.
"We will continue to improve their treatment, especially for those engineers with high education," he said.
He added pension system reform would be steadily carried out in governmental departments and institutions.
Wen Jiabao vowed during the online chat with netizens that ensuring fair income distribution will be an important task of the government.
Income distribution has a direct bearing on social justice and fairness as well as stability, Wen said.
'No discrimination' against farmer-turned workers
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that the government will strive to ensure no discrimination against farmer-turned workers in employment, education and training.
The government is mulling more measures to reform the household registration system, or hukou, in an active and steady manner and a policy circular in this regard will be disclosed, Wen said.
Efforts will be made to target the practical problems facing farmers who are working in cities, he said.
"Most importantly, farmer-turned workers and their kids should never be discriminated against in pursuing jobs, receiving compulsory education, and training, just because they are farmers under the household system," Wen said.
China currently has 240 million farmers who are working in cities, and migrant workers have become the major part of the country's industrial labor force and urban construction workers.
Exchange rate reform
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Internet users Sunday that the country will push forward the yuan's exchange rate reform in a prudent and step-by-step manner to ensure social stability.