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POLITICAL ECONOMY
Reforms needed for China growth: premier-to-be Li
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 23, 2012


China's holdout homeowners stuck in the road
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 23, 2012 - Pictures of an elderly couple's house standing in the middle of a huge dual carriageway as they hold out for compensation to leave have gone viral on the Internet in China.

The photographs, widely carried by Chinese state media and Internet sites on Friday, show a partially demolished five-storey block of flats in the centre of the road in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The phenomenon is called a "nail house" in China, as such buildings stick out and are difficult to remove, like a stubborn nail.

Luo Baogen, 67, and his 65-year-old wife have waged a four-year battle to receive more than the 260,000 yuan ($41,300) compensation offered by the local government of Daxi, the China Daily newspaper said.

"What a sight. I hope they can carry on," said blogger Guangshen Zhuxiaozi on the popular Sina microblog service.

Another who gave the name Ha Pu Sheng said: "The common people are always disadvantaged. The method of the government is so inhumane."

Local governments in China can earn enormous revenue by evicting people to clear land and reselling it to property developers.

The road has yet to officially open, and state media carried conflicting accounts over whether Luo had finally agreed to accept an offer for his family's home.

Daxi government officials declined to comment.

Despite their new separation from their neighbours, the couple still have mains electricity, running water and cable television, according to the Shanghai Daily.

Some bloggers praised the government's restraint, saying authorities had so far refrained from a forcible eviction and knocking down the building.

"I see progress in local officials," said Wudi De Daniupai.

There have been several previous "nail house" cases, including one in the southwestern city of Chongqing in 2007 in which the property developer excavated a deep pit around the holdout's home.

China's economic growth can only continue if the country reforms, said its expected next premier and newly promoted Communist Party number two Li Keqiang, according to state media Friday.

The ruling party's new leaders -- who were installed after a key congress last week and will also assume top government posts in March -- took charge in the face of slowing growth, rising popular discontent and calls for reform.

"Reform and opening is essential to allowing people to enjoy a better life," the China News Service quoted Li as saying while meeting officials overseeing 11 cities and provinces that are test-beds for reforms.

"If we don't do it, then we won't make mistakes, but will bear historic responsibility," he said Wednesday, in some of his first remarks since moving up the hierarchy.

Li focused on social and economic -- rather than political -- development, singling out uneven growth and the rural-urban imbalance as problems, both of which have generated popular resentment.

Strict residency rules needed to be fixed, as did land management and the social service system, he said, without giving specific details.

China's leaders have repeatedly promised reforms.

Li also warned that economic growth was likely to slow from the double digits of past years to around seven percent annually, but added that it would still be possible to achieve a "moderately prosperous" society by 2020.

Analysts say that as vice premier Li has been at the forefront of efforts to pursue more balanced development, although the record has been mixed.

Some say that with no broad power base, he may have trouble effecting major change in the face of the party's consensus-based leadership, vested interests and provinces bent on growth.

The Chinese word for reform is made up of two characters, both meaning change, and the China News Service said: "If there were two characters to summarise Li Keqiang's speech at the conference, they would be reform.

"To describe it in four characters would be, without a doubt: reform, reform. And to describe it in six would be: reform, reform, reform."

China's incoming leaders also face mounting pressure to tackle official corruption, highlighted by Xi Jinping when he took over as the new party chief last week.

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