Buckle up people, looks like we're in for a bumpy ride!
We all know what the SOP for totalitarian regimes is when the SHTF on the home front
...Chinese leader warns of rough ride ahead
CHINA faces tough choices between maintaining high growth and improving the environment and social services, the Premier warned as he prepared the country for a potentially difficult few years ahead.
Wen Jiabao told the opening of the annual National People's Congress yesterday that, despite another year of predicted high growth, it would be an "arduous" task reducing the income gap between increasingly restive farmers and wealthy urbanites.
He said people's lives had, however, improved over the past year. In real terms, per capita disposable income was up 9.6 per cent in the cities and 6.2 per cent in rural areas. Growth was expected to be slightly lower this year, 8 per cent, against 9.9 per cent in 2005, with an inflation target of just under 3 per cent. But unemployment is set to rise in the short term, from 4.2 per cent to just under 4.6 per cent.
He warned that China's modernisation was "now going through a very difficult period", but privatisation of state-owned enterprises and abolition of monopolies would nonetheless intensify this year.
"Many longstanding and deep-seated problems have yet to be fundamentally solved," he said. These included the inability of the central Government to rein in runaway investment, which has seen too many factories, steelworks and other industrial assets concentrated in the wrong areas, the wrong industries or both.
The surplus production is causing corporate losses and slashing profits, creating potentially greater financial risks to the economy and public concern over lack of affordable health care, education and housing. In addition, land seizures, relocations, corruption and pollution threatened social stability, he said.
Illustrating the choices, while Mr Wen's speech focused heavily on the "historic task" of building a "new socialist countryside", military spending won an even larger than expected rise: 14.7 per cent, the biggest in four years.
Last year the defence budget leapt by 12.6 per cent to just over $US30 billion ($40 million). This year's budget is about $US35 billion, with much of the new money going to increasing wages, improving and standardising training, and buying new arms. This will prompt inevitable concern from Washington and Tokyo, which suspect China's real military spending is even greater than its official figures show.
Funding for science and technology will also leap, up 19.2 per cent from last year to almost 72 billion yuan ($12 billion), recognition that without innovation China will be unable to sustain its high rates of growth once its role as a cheap manufacturing base fades as incomes rise.
The Government hopes big rises in subsidies to grain producers, more money for rural education, modest rises and reforms of old-age pensions, support for laid-off workers, and pilot projects to improve health services will enable more of the underprivileged to "experience the warmth of our large socialist family".
The obligatory passage in the Premier's speech on reunification with Taiwan was muted. Mr Wen appealed to Taiwan compatriots to return to the motherland under the "one country, two systems" approach that governs Hong Kong and Macao. His statement that this was the desire of mainlanders and Taiwanese and that "anyone who tries to reverse this major trend will most certainly fail" was a jab at Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian, who last week abolished an official reunification body. Still, it was mild compared with the usual rhetoric.
Taiwan, which broke away from the mainland when the Communists took power in 1949, is unlikely to be convinced by the example of Hong Kong, where democrats continue to struggle with Beijing's interference and refusal to implement key aspects of the 1997 handover deal such as full parliamentary elections.
On the environment, there was no directive to provincial and local officials that growth achieved at the expense of degradation was unacceptable. Many campaigners believe such a demand is crucial if China is to seriously tackle its water shortage and appalling environmental problems.
Instead, there were the expected modest promises of tax breaks for industry to recycle and to publicise energy consumption per unit of output so that improvements could be monitored at least.
I saw that. i said to myself wtf?! The_Beer_Slayer