Zhu promises a better life for Chinese
Senior China Analyst
(CNN) -- Premier Zhu Rongji has told Chinese their standard of living will improve despite entry to the World Trade Organization and uncertainties in the world economy.
Zhu has recommended a stimulus package, including deficit financing, to ensure a growth rate of 7 percent.
The 73-year-old head of the State Council was on Tuesday morning delivering his Government Work Report on the first day of the National People's Congress, China's parliament.
Long-term state bonds to the value of 150 billion yuan will be issued to help boost domestic spending and consumption, including the funding of key infrastructure projects in hinterland provinces.
This is the fifth year in a row that the central government has incurred voluminous borrowings to stimulate spending.
The premier said a 7 percent growth rate was necessary to ensure employment, raise standard of living, preserve social stability, and facilitate economic restructuring.
Zhu pointed out that as a result of WTO entry, overall tariff rates had in January already been reduced from 15.3 percent to 12 percent.
But he gave reassurance that the jobs and standard of living of workers and farmers would not be hurt by the influx of foreign goods and produce.
Part of the additional state spending will be used to beef up the social security system -- including unemployment and medical benefits -- in cities and towns.
One out of eight sections of his two-hour speech was devoted to the welfare of farmers, whose income had lagged behind earnings levels of urban residents.
Zhu pledged that burdens on farmers, including taxes and other levies, would be lowered while electricity and other costs would also be reduced.
Moreover, more would be done to boost rural infrastructure, help farmers sell their produce and to ensure nine-year free education for rural kids.
Government sources in Beijing said this being Zhu's last year in office, the premier was anxious to reassure citizens that he would do all he could to address long-standing problems such as polarization of income and corruption.
The premier, however, had almost nothing to say on political reform and civil liberties in his 15,000-character speech.
On matters relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and foreign issues, Zhu largely stuck to a moderate, conciliatory mode.
On national reunification, Zhu appealed to Taiwanese to re-start dialogue and to commence direct trade and communications based on the principle of one China.
The premier did not repeat attacks made the past week by other Chinese officials against the "gradualist pro-independence gambit" of the administration of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.
The Head of the State Council noted improvement of ties in the past year with countries and regions including the U.S., Russia, the European Union and Japan.
He cited China's "constructive role" in the global effort against terrorism.
Zhu also made reference to the need to fight "hegemonism and power politics," but there was no specific reference to the United States.