China's economic growth exacting too high a toll: Hu
Beijing (AFP) Oct 15, 2007
President Hu Jintao said Monday that China's blistering economic growth was taking too high a toll on the nation's environment and society, and promised steps to limit the impacts.
"Our economic growth is realised at an excessively high cost in resources and to the environment," Hu said in a speech opening the five-yearly Communist Party Congress, China's most important political event.
Hu, who has consistently called for more balanced and sustainable growth during his first five years in power, also said the country was plagued by a widening wealth gap and an unequal geographical distribution of riches.
"There are still a considerable number of impoverished and low-income people in both urban and rural areas, and it has become more difficult to accommodate the interests of all sides," he said.
Hu will receive another five-year term during the week-long Congress.
The president has said he intends to push ahead with his concepts of "scientific development" and the "harmonious society" -- catchphrases for addressing imbalances.
Although he began the speech by touting his government's performance over the past five years, Hu conceded many people lacked sufficient access to public health services, housing, education, employment opportunities and justice.
"Some low-income people lead a rather difficult life and more efforts are needed to promote more logical and ethical progress," he said, offering no specifics.
Hu also said China would step up efforts to protect its devastated environment, cut energy use and contribute more to mitigating global climate change, again without giving specifics.
"We will enhance our capacity to respond to climate change and make new contributions to protecting the global climate," said Hu.
The president also set a target of quadrupling the economy by 2020.
China, which relies on heavily-polluting coal for about 70 percent of its energy needs, has quickly caught up to rival United States as the world's largest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
But Hu made no reference to cutting back dramatically on coal.
China has also so far resisted foreign calls to agree to mandatory emissions reductions, saying that as a developing nation it should be allowed some leeway on pollution in the name of economic growth.
Improving the environment while also expanding the economy will require an unprecedented effort to stop local governments from polluting in the name of growth, said Yang Fuqiang, of the US-based Energy Foundation.
"So far, the central and local governments have not done a very good job at this," said Yang, who also said a key step would be to lift price controls on energy, a politically risk move.
"This effort would require everyone to take some responsibility and that is difficult to achieve."
China's economy has recorded four straight years of double digit growth under Hu's reign. It is on track for another huge expansion in 2007, with gross domestic product gaining 11.5 percent in the first six months.
But in another apparent sign of Hu's commitment to curbing breakneck growth, a Congress spokesman said Sunday that Hu's ideology of "scientific development" would be incorporated into the party's constitution this week.
Putting the phrase into the constitution elevates Hu to the ideological pantheon occupied by past leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.
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