Leaders' rural visits indicate wealth gap resolve
Frequent visits to the rural poor have demonstrated Chinese leaders' resolve to tackle the country's rich-poor gap, political analysts have said.
"The central leadership wants to renew the public's understanding of China's national condition through their high-profile visits to the rural poor," said Li Changping, dean of the China village planning and designing institute.
Since their election in November, members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, including CPC's new helmsman Xi Jinping, have paid frequent field visits to poverty-stricken areas.
Among the latest trips, Xi visited elderly villagers in hinterland Gansu Province from Feb. 2 to Feb. 5, and Vice Premier Li Keqiang spent three days in Inner Mongolia to inquire about the well-being of migrant workers and herdsmen.
Previously, Yu Zhengsheng and Liu Yunshan, both members of the Standing Committee, visited China's less-developed provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi, respectively.
"Through their intensive visits to poor places, the leadership want to convey the message that they have acknowledged the development imbalance," said Zhang Chunxiao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Governance.
As China's economy catapulted to the world's No. 2 position, the country also saw its income gap yawning.
The National Bureau of Statistics said in January that the Gini coefficient, a rich-poor index, reached 0.474 in China in 2012, higher than the warning level of 0.4 set by the United Nations. That marked the first time China had released a Gini coefficient in 10 years, but it is estimated that the measure exceeded 0.4 for the decade not covered.
Meanwhile, China has 128 million rural residents, or 13.4 percent of the rural population, living under the current poverty line of 2,300 yuan (about 366 U.S. dollars) in annual net income per capita.
"Fast industrialization has failed to eradicate farmers' poverty in the past, hence the leadership is balancing their development strategy and ensuring that all citizens benefit from China's progress," said Li Changping.
In a gesture to improve the well-being of the public, the CPC in November announced a goal of doubling China's GDP and residents' per capita income by 2020 from 2010 levels.
It also set a goal of completing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020.
Experts believe the difficulty in meeting this target will lie in how to ensure that no one is left behind in China's modernization drive.
Narrowing the rich-poor gap and tackling the development imbalance is a severe challenge confronting the central leadership, experts say.
The senior leaders have made their attitude quite clear by recent visits -- they want to have the poor and disadvantaged attracting more attention, especially from CPC cadres, said Xie Chuntao, professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.