By Xinhua Writers Meng Na, Miao Xiaojuan, Wang Cong
BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao mainly focused on domestic issues and challenges during his second annual online chat here Saturday with the public, in which he described 2010 as "the most complicated year" for the country.
In the two-hour live webcast, Wen answered more than 20 questions, touching on the country's severe employment situation, fledgling economic recovery, soaring housing prices, inflation, corruption, and a cross-Strait economic pact.
|Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) chats on-line with netizens at two state news portals in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 27, 2010. The two major portals, namely www.gov.cn of the central government, and www.xinhuanet.com of Xinhua News Agency, jointly interviewed Premier Wen on Saturday with chosen questions raised by netizens. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)
Wen did not touch much on major international issues, except trade conflicts with the United States. The Premier vowed the country would keep open to the outside world when mentioning the up-coming Shanghai World Expo.
In a white shirt and a dark jacket, Wen answered questions with "frankness and sincerity" as netizens described. Some scrupulous watchers even posted messages, saying that "He dressed exactly the same as in last year's online chat," which was also ahead of the country's annual Parliament session.
In his opening remark, Wen said, "I do not feel so nervous this time, but still cherish this opportunity, as such kind of opportunities remain limited."
|Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao chats on-line with netizens at two state news portals in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 27, 2010. The two major portals, namely www.gov.cn of the central government, and www.xinhuanet.com of Xinhua News Agency, jointly interviewed Premier Wen on Saturday with chosen questions raised by netizens. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)
"The problems of public concern often keep me up night after night, searching for solutions," he said.
Noticing that both netizens' questions and premier's remarks focused on domestic issues in this high-profile event, observers said the phenomenon may exactly illustrate that China was still a developing country with numerous thorny issues of its own.
The chat seems to support the belief of Chinese leaders that the country's most pressing task is to address domestic issues, they said.
Wen did not talk too much about the widely concerned international affairs, such as climate change or the relations with neighboring countries.
Prof. Zheng Yongnian, director of East Asia Institute of National University of Singapore said, "it is reasonable that China is paying more attention to domestic issues, as China's handling of domestic issues, if properly, is itself a contribution to the international society.
"The adroit handling of domestic issues is the foundation for China to hold other responsibilities in the international society, " he added.
GOALS SET WITHIN TERM OF OFFICE
In response to China's would-be homeowners' frustration over the country's soaring housing prices, Wen pledged to tame the "wild-horse" housing market and keep the prices at a reasonable level within his term as Premier.
The government would increase housing supply, and implement land, finance and tax polices to enable more people to buy their own homes.
Another goal set by the Premier within his term was to improve the country's medical insurance system as part of China's on-going medical reform.
"The government would add state spending on medical insurance by 50 percent in 2010, from 80 yuan to 120 yuan per person," Wen said.
Education and food safety were also among Premier Wen's concerns.
Administrative rankings of colleges should be removed, and schools should be run by educationists, the Premier said, calling for changes in the educational bureaucracy, a problem that plagues China for decades.
He said China was formulating a mid and long-term outline for education reform and development which gave priority to reducing academic workload of students, so that they could develop in an all-around way.
Responding public concern over product quality, Wen pledged that companies producing counterfeit or substandard products should be punished with no tolerance and lenience.
"We shall not go soft (on those companies), in order to protect the overall interest of the Chinese nation," Wen said.
Wen said he was confident in China's economic development in 2010, even though it would be "the most complicated year" for the nation's economy.
"Last year was the most difficult year for China's economic development, while this year will be the most complicated," Wen said.
"We will consolidate the economic recovery while addressing new challenges," he said.
"The top priority is balancing stable and comparatively fast economic growth with the adjustment of the economic structure and the transformation of the development pattern, while keeping inflation in check," Wen said.
On Sino-U.S. trade relations, Wen said good Sino-U.S. trade relations could bring fundamental benefits to the peoples of both nations.
Bilateral trade should be balanced and sustainable, and trade disputes between the two countries should be resolved through "negotiation on an equal footing," instead of sanctions, he said.
Wen hoped Sino-U.S. trade dispute would ease. China did not not want 2010 to be "an unpeaceful year" for trade and economic relations with the United States, he said.
On the inflation management, he said China would continue to implement a "moderately loose" monetary policy and ensure stable and comparatively fast economic growth while managing inflationary prospects, he said.
"GREATER DIGNITY" FOR PEOPLE
Chinese citizens shall enjoy full freedom and rights within the framework of the Constitution and laws, which is key to the promotion of "greater dignity" of the population, Wen said.
Explaining his earlier comment on "letting the Chinese live with greater dignity", Wen said all people should be equal before the law.
He said the ultimate purpose of a country's development should be none other than meeting the increasing material and cultural need of the people, and that social development should be based on the full development of individuals.
"We shall create favorable conditions for people's freedom and full development, in order to nurture their intelligence and talents," Wen said.
Meanwhile, the Premier also pledged that China must and should be able to curb the misuse of public funds by promoting democracy and public supervision.
The government must make the use of public resources transparent by having all administrative expenditures included in the budget system and known to the public, he said.
Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Shanghai-based Fudan University, said "The fact that the premier stresses the 'greater dignity' of the people indicates a higher level of governance and a renewed commitment from the government to the people."
"PINKY SWEAR" FOR ANOTHER CHAT
At the end of the chat, the premier promised to continue his online chat with netizens next year.
"Let's pinky swear," the Premier said jokingly.
Wen's talk was rewarded by over 400,000 posts on the Xinhuanet website, and more than 100,000 short messages sent by mobile phone users.
Zhao Yan, hostess of the chat, said in an interview after the event that questions from netizens were "very good" and that the premier's sincerity touched her most.
"It is a truly heart-to-heart and zero-distance chat," Zhao said.