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Govt resolves to build "socialist new countryside"

    BEIJING, Feb. 20 (Xinhuanet)-- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday pledged that his government would increase the funding for rural development this year, the latest of a series of official moves aimed at speeding up the modernization of China's vast countryside.

    Addressing the closing ceremony of a high-level seminar with the theme of "building a socialist new countryside," Wen highlighted the importance of rural development, calling it a "major historic mission during the process of the country's modernization."

    The premier's promise came only days after Chinese President Hu Jintao made a similar speech last Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the seminar, participated by all central government ministers and provincial heads from all over the country.

    Experts said that the two leader's speeches provide a clear-cutdefinition of the fresh development concept of "building a socialist new countryside," first put forth at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) late last year.

    The experts believe the Chinese leadership has decided to make "building a socialist new countryside" a top priority in the country's pursuit of modernization, designed to be initially achieved in mid 21st century.

    In his Tuesday speech, President Hu said that building a socialist new countryside will be the "most arduous and toughest" task for China on its road to modernization and common prosperity.

    It is imperative to properly handle the relationship between industrial and agricultural development, and between urban and rural development, Hu said.

    Political analysts here noted that the just-concluded seminar was the fourth of its kind since 2003, with the previous three focusing on "very important topics" like "the important thought of'Three Represents'," "a scientific view of development," and "building a harmonious socialist society."

    "The holding of such a high-level seminar itself has reflected the strategic importance of the building of a socialist new countryside," said Ke Bingsheng, director of a rural economic research center under China's Agricultural Ministry.

    In his Monday speech, Premier Wen again stressed the necessity to balance urban and rural development and to increase financial support to agricultural and rural development.

    The country shall allocate more social and economic resources to the underdeveloped countryside, including more public spendings in the rural areas, improved public services for the rural residents, and a shift of focus in national infrastructure construction in favor of the rural areas, he elaborated.

    Ke, the rural problem researcher, said that the week-long seminar will help improve senior officials' understanding of the importance of rural development, and will prompt them to provide more financial support to rural areas at all levels.

    The ruling Communist Party of China outlined the task of "building a socialist new countryside" last October when unveilingits blueprint for the country's overall development in the coming five years.

    During the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays which fell at the end of January, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabaoboth went to the countryside and celebrated the traditional festival with the farmers.

    Experts believe this has sent a clear signal that the leadership are determined to make the country's countryside a much better place characterized by more balanced and harmonious social and economic development.

    Premier Wen said earlier that building a socialist new countryside should not be interpreted as merely constructing villages, although changing the face of the countryside does require such construction.

    Experts predict that in the coming months, a series of concretepolicies would be announced to back rural development.

    Wen has said that this year public spendings on rural development should exceed that of last year, though the details ofthe budget will not be available until the annual session of the national legislature is convened early next month.

    But the premier has made it clear that increased spendings on education, public health and culture would be used mainly in the countryside, while the urban areas should support rural development through various channels.

    The country will also encourage the private sector to invest in the countryside, the premier added. Enditem

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