Opinion / From the Press

Taking good care of its people

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-11-16 09:28

The wealth gap between urban and rural areas in China may be widening, but at the same time a welfare state has begun taking root in the country with healthcare and pension reforms, and free midday meals for poor children and the needy, says an article in The Guardian. Excerpts:

As China sees its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, the State media hail a "golden decade" under the incumbents. Critics call it a lost decade, rife with wasted opportunities for the economic, social and political reforms the country needs.

A decade ago, 147 million urban employees and 55 million rural residents had pension coverage. Now 229 million urban employees are covered, and 449 million rural and urban residents; 124 million are already receiving payments. A few years ago, barely 20 percent of rural residents had medical insurance; now 96 percent of the population is covered.

How much credit President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao deserve is a matter of opinion; their predecessors began some of the programs (which benefited the people) and other leaders would presumably have sought to address the problems that emerged with China's development.

The significance of their legacy will depend on how their successors build on it. Developing a welfare state in China will require the support not just of China's new leaders, but of its citizens, too.

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