List of hot topics during Two Sessions (2008-2014): High house prices a persisting problem

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Anti-corruption, people’s livelihood and high house prices have been the top three most debated topics during the Two Sessions for six consecutive years, the China Economic Weekly reported, based on data on Two Sessions hot topics gathered by People’s Daily website and Xinhua over the past six years.

In 2008, the top concern was inflation, in 2009 it was housing price control, in 2010 the distribution of incomes, and in 2011 it was housing price control again. People cared most about food safety supervision in 2012, anti-corruption in 2013 and smoggy air in 2014. The changes in top concerns reflect the changes in China’s socio-economic conditions.

No.1: Anti-corruption

By the end of 2013, five provincial level officials Chen Anzhong, Tong Mingqian, Li Dongsheng, Yang Gang and Li Chongxi were successively placed under investigation, besides Jiang Jiemin, the director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC).

At the CPC Politburo Meeting held on December 30, 2013, it was proposed that “the fight against corruption should be determinedly deepened”, which indicated that the central government would continue to take stronger action in 2014.

For many years, official corruption has become Chinese society’s ‘chronic cancer’. Graft is not just limited to the government departments but pervades the education, health care, construction and engineering fields endowed with resources. So, voices against corruption have become stronger.

The Third Plenum of CPC proposed to reform the current discipline supervision system, calling for a full coverage of the inspection system and exploring the official residence system. After the Third Plenum, the central government mapped out pilot areas for newly assigned officials to declare their personal properties, released new restrictions governing "naked officials", or those whose family members have all gone abroad, and curtailed the powers of top officials.

 “The basic solution is to build an institutional base for anti-corruption drive, to gradually formulate the laws that could prohibit corrupt practices from the beginning,” Zhang Shixian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the China Economic Weekly.

It is learnt that in terms of an institutional base for anti-corruption drive, China would successively create early-warning mechanism, and expand public supervision especially for reporting graft via the Internet.

No. 2: Three new difficulties for livelihood

 Over the three decades since reform and opening up, China has witnessed a 16-fold increase in its GDP. Although the problem of feeding the people has already been resolved, the improvement of living conditions has failed to keep up with the economic growth. Education, health care and employment are regarded as the three big old problems facing Chinese people.

 “For education, people are not complaining about devotion, but the specific policies, based on which a large amount of money, talent, and equipment were allocated to high-end schools. This caused inequality in educational opportunities. For the kids from common families, it’s hard to go to a good school,” said Zhang.

 The China Economic Weekly said medical resources are mostly concentrated in cities rather than the countryside. And since the current medical system cannot cover all people, many ordinary Chinese still cannot afford to see doctors and get treatment.

The problem with employment is not so severe, according to Zhang. “China is now facing the turning point of labor supply: from labor-intensive factories to hi-tech companies, all are facing labor shortage.”

But while old problems with education, medical care and employment remain to be fully solved, new difficulties like care for the aged, enrollment into kindergartens, and transportation are arising.

 China has entered into an aging society, with the parents of single children beginning to retire. With young couples having four elderly parents to take care of, and a lack of nursing homes for the elderly, China’s society is burdened by the responsibilities of providing care for the aged in the short term.

No.3: House price rise

According to Zhang, human factors are behind the phenomenon of high-rise house prices. “Property developers, commercial banks, local governments, property owners all do not expect house prices to fall down. Only those people who don’t own a house would want the prices to go down. And they are mostly college graduates and migrant workers who could not afford the price even if it drops. This situation determines the current trend of house prices.”

According to Wang Xiaoguang, a researcher with the National School of Administration, there are three key methods to contain house prices. The first one is tax rate: moderating tax rate would be more effective than moderating interest rate and constrain real estate speculation. Meanwhile, house taxes would also be a good way to cap house prices. The second way would be to prohibit transactions of properties under construction. Forward house delivery makes it possible for developers to transfer the risks to banks and consumers. The third way is to increase information transparency, the lack of which apparently puts many consumers at a disadvantage in transactions.

In fact, keeping the house prices stable is a goal of micro-control policies. Because if the house prices slump, it would not only hurt the interests of developers but also the commercial banks and local governments, thus posing risks to the economy.

Smog makes into the list for first time

By February 25, large-scale smog had enveloped large parts of north China and Huang-Huai area for as long as six days. Smog has become a major problem for the Chinese people.

At the just finished local-level Two Sessions, managing “smoggy air” has become a top concern in government work reports of all areas except Tibet and Ningxia. For the first time, Beijing municipality included decreasing PM2.5 as an indicator in the government work report.

Some academicians predicted environmental problems like atmospheric, water, and soil pollution would be further mapped out in this year’s central government report.

The article is edited and translated from a news by People's Daily Online.

 


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