- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

BEIJING (Agence France-Presse) — Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed “forceful measures” to curb rising food prices and address a booming real estate market that has seen property prices skyrocket, the state press says.

“The central government attaches great importance to commodity prices and has made it an important task to stabilize them,” Mr. Hu said in a New Year’s message delivered Monday during a visit to the northern port city of Tianjin.

“A series of forceful measures have been taken and will continue to be taken to ensure the normal life of the masses,” Mr. Hu was quoted as saying by China Central Television.

Inflation hit an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November, according to official statistics.

The spike was propelled by an 18.2 percent rise in food prices. The price of pork, which forms the core of most Chinese diets, was up by a staggering 56 percent.

He also vowed to curb rising housing prices to help low-income families and to provide them with better health care benefits, two other top concerns of China’s citizens.

“The [Communist] Party and government are very much concerned about the housing problem of the low-income masses,” Mr. Hu said.

“The central government has made arrangements to speed up the low-rent housing system, improve the affordable-housing system and ease the housing difficulties of urban low-income families.”

Mr. Hu made the comments as he visited a family at their small rental home in Tianjin and a retirement facility in the city.

The privatization of housing in China over the last two decades has led to a booming real-estate market that has left homes unaffordable, not only to low-income earners, but also to many ordinary working families.

Official figures show that property prices in 70 Chinese cities rose 9.5 percent year-on-year in October, up 0.6 percentage points from September, with prices in the eastern metropolis of Shanghai up 7.9 percent.

In a New Year’s address also carried on state television throughout the day Tuesday, Mr. Hu vowed to push forward his “harmonious society” program that emphasizes the need to address the rich-poor divide.

He further said China will contribute to world peace and called for the “peaceful reunification” of Taiwan, which China views as a part of its territory.

Unlike former President Jiang Zemin, Mr. Hu has refrained from issuing vows of force to retake Taiwan, using milder language when discussing the democratically ruled island.

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