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STEVE CHOITAKIS: Communist Party leaders in Beijing today laid out another five-year plan that’s set to start next year. They’ve done the five-year plan thing a dozen times. You gotta remember, despite China’s unbridled capitalism, it still has a planned socialist economy.
As Marketplace’s China bureau chief Rob Schmitz reports, drafting the plan provides a rare opportunity for China’s policymakers to talk about the country’s problems.
ROB SCHMITZ: The party’s goals for the five-year plan ending this year: economic growth, urbanizing the population, and creating jobs. Mission accomplished, says China economist Andy Xie. Now there’s another problem the party needs to tackle.
ANDY XIE: I think that high growth has not lead to better social stability. The growth model is at a point that it’s not benefiting the people.
Now that they’ve got a job and live in a city, many Chinese are wondering when they’ll be able to afford a home. Apartments in Shanghai and Beijing are out-of-reach for many in China’s middle class. Xie says it’s an example of the widening gap between the rich and poor; a problem that’ll need to be tackled within the next five years.
Economists like Xie say an answer is political freedom. One example: a free press. Without a system of checks and balances, people in power in China end up with all the money. Premier Wen Jiabao has hinted at China’s need for more political freedoms recently, but it’s unclear whether these will appear in the 12th five-year plan that’ll be revealed next March.
In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.
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