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China's Premier Discusses Economy, Social Stability in National Address

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivers the government report at the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 5, 2011

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says China's economy is on course for another five years of economic expansion. He also stressed the need to make the economic boom more inclusive by closing the gap between the wealthy and the poor. The Chinese leader laid out his government's economic plan in a state-of-the-union-style address at the opening of the annual National People's Congress.

Amid the pomp inside the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Central Beijing, Premier Wen Jiabao gave a sobering message about the social and economic challenges facing the nation.

Wen says China is on course for another five years of robust growth at around seven percent. But he says inflation and corruption threaten social stability and must be controlled.

Inflation has been a government concern for some time. Millions of ordinary Chinese spend half their income on food and prices are rising.

The nation's inflation rate is currently estimated at nearly five percent and some economists say it has yet to peak, despite three recent interest rate hikes to cool the economy.

The Chinese leader vowed to close the wealth gap and tackle what he described as uneven economic development. Wen said his government would try to stimulate domestic demand with increased subsidies to farmers and the urban poor.

Hundreds of millions Chinese have yet to reap the benefits of China's economic boom. Popular discontent has been simmering over perceived economic inequalities, as well as such issues as official corruption, land ownership and environmental pollution.

Wen addressed those concerns.

He says the government must make improving the people's lives a pivot linking reform, development and stability. He says the leadership must make sure people are content with their lives and jobs, that society is tranquil and orderly, and that the country enjoys long-term peace and stability.

Social stability has been a recent concern of the government amid the political upheaval spreading in the Middle East. Chinese state media warned Saturday against heeding calls to emulate the Mideast pro-democracy protests.

Chinese security forces have been deployed in large numbers at landmarks in major cities named as rallying points by pro-democracy advocates on Chinese Internet websites.