Pallavi Aiyar

Beijing: Underscoring the socialist rhetoric that has characterised much of the proceedings of this year's annual session of China's Parliament, Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated on Friday that his Government would focus on helping the least advantaged sections of society. He was speaking at a press conference, which marked the close of the two-week-long meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC).

Yawning inequalities, corruption and disappearing provisions for health and education have caused much disaffection amongst substantial segments of Chinese society in recent years, a phenomenon that the authorities have been trying to counter with promises of building a "new socialist country."

Proactive policy

At the two-hour-long press conference on Friday, Mr. Wen renewed his vow to implement polices that would provide "equal opportunities for all in education, develop a proactive employment policy and build social security networks in both rural and urban areas." Although he steered clear of talk of multi-party democracy, the Premier did hold out the prospect of greater public supervision of Government officials, which he said was crucial for reducing corruption.

He admitted that corruption continued to be a major systemic problem in China and that many corruption cases "even involved senior leaders."

He suggested that by improving and creating "rule of law" China would move towards a "socialist democracy," a concept that takes into account the country's own unique circumstances.