Chinese Voice Wish-list for a Well-off Society

Chinese people are moving toward their country's stated goal of a well-off society while witnessing China's rapid economic progress of the past five years. They confidently look forward to even brighter and happier lives in the future.

But for some, it can't come quickly enough.

Zeng Baizhong, a 49-year-old laid-off worker from Nanning City in south China's Guangxi Province, longs for more job opportunities. A monthly unemployment relief benefit of 245 yuan (29.6 US dollars) just doesn't make ends meet as his wife has been ill with lung cancer for two years.

Because of his "embarrassing" age, Zeng has been turned down for many jobs since being made redundant two years ago. But the results from a national labor security meeting held at the end of last year may encourage him.

According to the sources at the meeting, China will create 9.5 million new jobs in 2003, holding the urban registered unemployment rate under 4.5 percent.

Though given 80 yuan (9.7 US dollars) in a monthly basic living allowance by the government, 65-year-old Niu Zhonghe still appeals for a more efficient social welfare system.

"My wife doesn't qualify for the social welfare system because she isn't an urban resident," Niu said.

An authoritative survey shows that the government-funded basic living allowance has become the backbone for many urban needy families like Niu's. However, the low sum isn't enough to help them survive serious illness or play their part in the comminity, both of which would require a better social welfare system.

Farmers at Luo'erling Town in Huoshan County, east China's Anhui Province, would like to see their wallets fill up more quickly.

The annual per capita net income of Anhui's farmers in 2002 reached 2,120 yuan, up 100 yuan over the previous year. But the increase still appears meagre when compared with that of the province's urban residents, whose annual income rose by 331 yuan to 6,000 yuan last year.

The guidelines of last year's 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China set the goal of building a generally well-off society, and highlighted as indispensable the need to improve the lot of the rural population.

Soaring prices have turned the idea of buying a house into purely a dream for many ordinary Chinese who yearn for an apartment of their own.

Retired cadre Zhang Wusheng had planned to buy a house in Beijing, but was frustrated by the surprisingly high prices. Even houses far away from downtown areas are still selling at about 5,000 yuan per square meter.

China's relevant government department has stepped up monitoring of the real estate market as well as the construction of housing targeting low-income families.

Wang Dan, a diligent reporter and devoted mother, felt quite burdened by the 1,000 yuan demanded per month for the "education" of her daughter, who is still at kindergarten.

Though Chinese are never tight-fisted when it comes to their children's education, even they would like to see schools cut down on expenses. Sadly, some poor rural children have had to give up their schooling because their parents can't afford the cost of education.

An increasing number of Chinese patients are voicing their desire to see reforms and expansion of the health care system speeded up.

For example, Lu Hong complained of the difficulty in getting medical treatment in hospital after queuing from 4 a.m. to register to see a doctor.

Sun Guoying, who lives in Beijing's Haidian District, is particularly concerned about food safety.

However, compared with 2001, cases of large-scale food poisoning reported to China's Ministry of Public Health dropped noticeably last year, indicating food safety is improving.

Liu Jie still felt comparatively lucky despite losing four fingers in a work accident, as many workers' lives have been lost in frequent coal gas explosions and flooding accidents at mines around the country.

Workers like Liu Jie may be encouraged by the central government's stance. Stressing the importance of workplace safety, it is urging local leaders and employers not to sacrifice safety at work for production gains.

With more swindling and cheating cases disturbing the regular economic order, people are calling for good faith to guarantee the healthy development of the market economy.

Meanwhile, though the nationwide crackdown on corruption has made great strides, the people still want to see more efforts to clean up the problem.

The central authorities have been fully aware of the wish of the people and implemented a series of measures to fight corruption. A number of corrupt officials have been arrested for the past year.



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