Regions press Beijing for end to austerity
WILLY WO-LAP LAM
China's regional leaders are expected to join forces at a key meeting at Beidaihe next month in an attempt to force Beijing to further relax the tight-money policy.
Party secretaries, governors and mayors from the provinces and large cities will soon leave for the northern resort, the scene of annual brainstorming sessions.
Chinese sources said after spending a week or so resting, central and regional leaders will plan the coming year's policies in marathon conferences from about August 12.
So far, top leaders including Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji have insisted that the programme of 'macro-level adjustments and controls', a code word for the austerity regime, would persist in the foreseeable future.
And extra funds and credits have been made available only to a few hundred carefully selected large-scale state enterprises.
However, optimistic statements and figures released by People's Bank of China Governor Dai Xianglong and other officials, including the fact that the country had achieved 'soft landing', have given regional leaders fresh ammunition.
'The high foreign reserves and single-digit inflation rate mean the country can afford to relax the austerity policy,' a Guangdong economic cadre said.
The cadre said regional representatives would cite 'dozens of reasons' to make their case. For example, more funds are needed to reactivate enterprise reform, which virtually stopped last year.
'Leaders of poorer provinces have threatened that unless the spigot is turned on, entire counties and towns would be overrun by demonstrating workers and farmers,' the cadre added.