POLITICS
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Li Keqiang

Li Keqiang follows new down-to-earth working style on tour of Jiangxi

Next premier outlines policy priorities during low-key inspection tour of impoverished Jiangxi

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 5:04am

On his first inspection trip to the provinces since becoming No 2 in the Communist Party hierarchy last month, premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang mapped out some areas of future policy focus: housing, medical care and schooling for migrant workers and their families.

The start of Li's trip to the relatively poor inland province of Jiangxi was low-key, only being reported on Caijing magazine's website yesterday. It said Li arrived in Jiujiang , a port city on the Yangtze River, on Thursday night and met migrant workers in the city.

The trip seems to be in line with the party leadership's new, streamlined working style and down-to-earth approach, a push aimed at promoting their image as men of the people who care about the impoverished masses.

Li showed a keen interest in tackling issues facing the millions of migrant workers and called for action to improve their livelihoods, such as providing them with affordable housing, adequate medical services, fair education for their children and help to start their own businesses.

"Whenever he met migrant workers during the trip, he asked them three questions: what is your biggest wish; what is the greatest difficulty [in realising it]; and what is your plan [to realise it]? Most answers about the difficulties they faced were about their household registration status, housing, medical services and their children's education," Caijing said.

Li said that building affordable, government-subsidised housing was key to curbing property prices and making it possible for farmers to become urban residents. He also called for help for migrant workers wanting to start their own businesses, not just those looking for work.

Li said migrant workers needed affordable housing and the rapid reimbursement of medical expenses by insurance schemes.

Zhuang Jian, of the Asian Development Bank's China Resident Mission, said the report shed light on Li's vision for the direction of reform and the mainland's economic growth model.

"He envisions an urbanisation programme with two aims - to promote consumption-driven growth, shifting away from an over-reliance on export growth and infrastructure investment, and to ease social tensions," Zhuang said, highlighting the widening income gap between urban areas on the coast and rural regions inland.

In his recent speeches, Li has highlighted urbanisation as the next big theme for development and investment on the mainland.

Zhuang said that Li's recent remarks also highlighted the importance of reform in promoting the high-quality urbanisation that could further unlock China's growth potential.

Li's trip, which continued yesterday, featured no welcoming ceremony, no official reception and no traffic controls for his two-van motorcade.

Caijing said Li visited migrant workers' homes, but did not give further details of his itinerary.

Li was expected to hold a meeting with local officials from the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, Hubei and Sichuan yesterday.