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February 24, 2010

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Public puts strong case for change to premier

PREMIER Wen Jiabao is being flooded with public suggestions and questions as China's top legislative and advisory sessions approach.

An online survey to hear public opinion at has received more than 5,300 responses within three days of going live.

Rising home prices, personal income and medical reform have been heated topics.

"House prices are challenging the central government," wrote a Netizen from east China's Jiangsu Province.

Another, from north China's Inner Mongolia, opined: "The income gap is rapidly widening. I hope the government discusses this issue at the National People's Congress and introduces countermeasures."

Public expectation for policy-makers is high as the NPC, the top legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the main advisory body, begin annual sessions in Beijing next week.

The NPC is expected to review the government's work report for last year, vote on central government's draft budget for 2010 and map out this year's development blueprint.

The 11th National Committee of the CPPCC will also open its third session next week, where its members will air suggestions on what the government should focus on this year.

Analysts said although China's gross domestic product grew 8.7 percent year on year to 33.54 trillion yuan (US$4.91 trillion) in 2009 on the back of the central government's huge economic stimulus package, resolving the public's major concerns - such as housing affordability and the gap between rich and poor - remained an uphill battle for policy-makers.

"Before the global financial crisis, China's economy was mainly driven by massive investment and exports," said Jian Zhuang, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank's China mission.

"Such an economic growth pattern was not sustainable."

According to the latest figures by the National Bureau of Statistics, China's consumer price index, the key indicator of inflation, rose 1.5 percent year on year in January.

NBS statistics showed the producer price index, an inflation indicator at the wholesale level, rose 4.3 percent in January from a year earlier, up from 1.7 percent in December 2009 when the figure ended 12 months of decline.

Livelihood issues were also to the fore in other national online polls.

Pensions, housing and health care were among the top concerns, according to the polls conducted by, of the Communist Party of China's flagship newspaper People's Daily, of Xinhua news agency and of the state-run TV network.

Concerns over pensions earned 25,508 votes as the issue of most concern at, followed by anti-corruption, housing prices, the income gap, employment and health care. Pensions also ranked among the top five concerns in the poll.

Netizens generally called for the scrapping of the long-time "dual pension scheme," in which civil servants and other public employees are entitled to pensions several times the amount of people employed by non-public entities.

"The current pension scheme widens the wealth gap," a person posted at

Housing was the top concern in the survey hosted by and attracted a huge amount of comments.

"Hi, Premier Wen, we hope you can help us," a post said at "Houses are for the rich but not for ordinary people like us.

"Even in my hometown, such a small city like Shandong's Zibo, houses are too expensive for us. We hope the central government can address this problem."


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