VARIOUS FILE: Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will retire at this year's annual...
- Title: VARIOUS FILE: Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will retire at this year's annual parliament session after a decade in power which has seen China grow to become the world's second biggest economy
- Date: 27th February 2013
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (FILE - MARCH 14, 2012) (REUTERS) CLOSING CEREMONY OF NATIONAL PEOPLE'S CONGRESS CHINESE PREMIER WEN JIABAO (STANDING RIGHT) AND PRESIDENT HU JINTAO WALKING INTO CEREMONY LEADERS STANDING
- Reuters ID: LVAE1QGFQW1QQR3N49EG1VUB10AU
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Duration: 00:00:14
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Politics
- Story Text: It has been 10 "golden" years under the leadership of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese state media has declared.
During their rule, China enjoyed years of double digit growth that lifted millions out of poverty and boosted the country's ranking from sixth to second largest economy in the world.
It has sent astronauts into space and is now planning to put them on the moon.
The world has seen a more assertive China when it comes to handling territorial disputes with its neighbours, supported by its advancing military technology.
Some residents in Beijing were quick to acknowledge the leap forward that China has achieved.
"I think they have done a good job. The economy has been growing very fast for years. Actually it has been growing at the fastest rate since China was founded in 1949. The improvement of people's lives is tangible," said 80-year-old local resident Mr. Zhao.
But others pointed to the side-effects of Hu and Wen's economic polices such as skyrocketing property prices and inflation.
"Home prices go up and down all the time, they are not very stable. Inflation is very high. And air pollution in big cities such as Beijing is severe," said another resident, 50-year-old Liu Liping.
Critics say that China's break-neck development has come at a high cost.
"For every percentage of growth, we may have to pay 10 percent of the cost or even more to make it right in the future. For example, we may have to spend 10 times or much more in the future to reverse environmental degradation caused by destructive development. And we will have to pay heavy prices for corruption, deepening disparity between the rich and poor, and wide-spread demoralisation caused by the antagonism and hatred between ordinary people and the privileged," said Yu Jie, a prominent Chinese writer and dissident, who now lives in exile in the United States.
In the past ten years, Hu and Wen have weathered crises that would have derailed the careers of leaders in many other countries.
In 2008 alone, violent riots spilled over across China's Tibetan region, nearly 80,000 people were killed in a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in south-western Sichuan province, and 300,000 infants were sickened by melamine-tainted milk powder.
In July of the following year, unrest between the Han Chinese and ethnic Uighurs in western Xinjiang killed at least 140 people.
Another blow was the fall of once high-flying politician Bo Xilai, whose corruption investigation ripped open a hole in the often secretive and extravagant lives of Chinese leaders.
Wen's own reputation was not spared when foreign media reports emerged of massive wealth accumulated by his family, although most Chinese people did not get a chance to read those reports before they were blocked on the Internet.
During his time in office, Wen has emerged as the friendly face of the ruling Communist Party, appearing regularly on state broadcaster CCTV at the scenes of disasters to boost morale and show government concern.
His visit to Sichuan Province in 2008 just hours after it was hit by the earthquake garnered massive public support and helped make him one of the ten most popular politicians on Facebook, even though the site is blocked in mainland China.
By contrast, poker-faced President Hu Jintao has settled for issuing statements through state media.
But to Yu, author of "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao", a book banned in mainland China but available in Hong Kong, Wen's amiable face and his appeals for reform were just for show.
"One of them plays the good guy, and the other the bad one, just like the austere father and the fond mother of a family. As long as they work as a team, that is the only way the power system of the Communist Party can be sustained. So I don't think Wen Jiabao is a real reformist, they just need someone like him to play the role," said Yu.
Over the years, Wen has stood out among China's leaders as the most persistent advocate of measured relaxation under party control.
As he prepares to leave power, he has made a habit of calling much more forthrightly, though often vaguely, for political reform.
In an emotional address at the beginning of his last news conference as premier held at the end of the annual parliament session in 2012, Wen said he bore responsibility for problems incurred during his nine years in office.
"I bear responsibility for the problems that have arisen in the economy and society during my term," said Wen.
Hu, 70 and Wen, 71, will retire at this year's annual parliament session that kicks off on March 5 to complete a once-in-a-decade power transition in the world's most populous country.
Hu will hand over the presidency to the newly-anointed Communist Party chief Xi Jinping. Wen's successor has not been made public, but is expected to be current Vice Premier Li Keqiang.
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