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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La Chine en quête de social

by Dominique Bari

China in Search of Social Justice

Translated Thursday 8 April 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

Before Parliament, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao yesterday (March 5) repeated the need for healthier economic growth and fairer sharing of the benefits of growth.

“We have to assure ourselves of a continued push for economic development, a solid foundation for social progress and lasting stability for the country (...) in order to guarantéé a better life to the population.” At yesterday’s opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stressed the necessary creation of jobs and struggle against growing inequality. He redefined the country’s new economic orientations, betting on strong economic growth of 8% in 2010 fueled by domestic demand and no longer by exports, as was the case these past three decades.

This year is “crucial for continuing to ward off the international financial crisis, assuring regular and relatively rapid economic development and accelerating the change in our mode of economic development,” Wen Jiabao said, insisting that the plan to relaunch the economy announced in late 2008, which calls for investments of 4 trillion yuans (430 billion euros) over two years would continue with an 8.8% increase in social spending and a 12.8% increase in investment in rural areas, i.e. higher than the 7.5% increase in the military budget. The setting up of better social protection is to be realized for the Chinese through less saving for a rainy day, for old age, or for the children’s education, and through increased consumption.

For the Prime Minister, it was difficult to evade discussing the problems which deeply worry the 1.3 billion Chinese, including the increasingly high number of inequalities in society and between town and country. Hence the prudence of his words. “We must not interpret the economic recovery as a fundamental improvement in the economic situation. The domestic motors of economic growth are insufficient,” he said, referring to the thousands of “social incidents” that are recorded each year.

The battle of the yuan.

To the great displeasure of the United States and the European Union, which are militating for a free rise in the value of the Chinese currency, Wen Jiabao committed himself to maintaining a stable yuan. Beijing has frozen the exchange rate at 6.83 yuans to the dollar since mid-2008 in order to maintain the competitiveness of its exporters. China sees this as an indispensable “priority” for its companies and the maintenance of employment.

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