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BEIJING: China’s government pledged yesterday to repair the country’s ravaged environment and boost public services under its new leadership, an acknowledgment that quality of life was sidelined during the outgoing administration’s decade of breakneck economic growth.
In a policy speech opening the national legislature’s yearly session, soon-to-retire Premier Wen Jiabao went through a list of problems that had built up in recent years and was being left to his successors: a sputtering growth model; poisoned air, waterways and soil; a vast and growing rich-poor gap; and rampant official corruption that has alienated many Chinese.
“Is this a time bomb?” Yao Jianfu, a retirement government researcher, asked. Yao’s specialty is China’s army of migrant workers who are often deprived of access to housing, education and other government services. “If there’s an economic downturn and massive unemployment, will the 200 million migrant workers become the main force of the next Cultural Revolution?” he said, referring to the excesses of the chaotic 1966-76 period.
The unfinished agenda of China’s past decade are now central concerns of the new leadership as it seeks to assuage a public that is looking beyond pocket-book issues, empowered by the Internet and increasingly vocal about the need for change.
Wen acknowledged the responsibility he and other retiring leaders have for leaving such a tangle of problems, even as they have guided China to prosperity and power on the world stage.
“Some of these problems have built up over time, while others have emerged in the course of economic and social development, and still others have been caused by inadequacies and weaknesses in our government work,” Wen told about 3,000 legislative deputies in the Great Hall of the People, his last address before stepping down. AP