BEIJING, Mar. 1 -- China's government will set its annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for the 2011-2015 period at 7 percent, and make the improvement of living standards a fundamental aim.
Premier Wen Jiabao, in an on-line chat with the public on Sunday, said the GDP target for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) was lower than the 7.5 percent target for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), when China's economy grew at an actual annual rate of about 10 percent.
"We'll never seek a high economic growth at the price of the environment, as that would result in unsustainable growth with industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption," Wen said.
His chat on the websites of the central government (www.gov.cn) and Xinhua News Agency (www.news.cn) six days before the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.
The central government would adopt new performance evaluation criteria for local governments and give more weight to efficiency, environment protection and living standards, said Wen.
"We should change the criteria for evaluating officials' work. The supreme criterion for assessing their performance is whether the people feel happy and satisfied," the premier noted.
Netizens raised about 400,000 questions for Wen. He answered about 20 during the two-hour session, during which he said the government would strive to continue to raise pensions, make medical services accessible to every citizen, build more high-quality rural schools, and ensure fair income distribution.
He vowed that "every citizen should share the fruits of the reform and opening up drive".
Wen also revealed the aim to reduce China's energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 to 17 percent by 2015 from the current level.
Analysts said Wen's comments highlighted the government's resolution to implement the "Scientific Outlook on Development" in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period.
"They show the Chinese government will focus on scientific development in the next five years and pay more attention to improving living standards and sustainable development," said Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asia Institute of National University of Singapore.
Improving living standards was extremely important, as it related to social stability and would help boost domestic demand and help transform the economic development pattern, Zheng said.
Wen said that income distribution had a direct bearing on social justice and stability and ensuring fair income distribution was an important task for the government in the next five years.
Wen said the government had been working to establish a social security system that would address concerns about pensions, medical services, employment and living allowances, and aim to reduce the income gap and let more people enjoy the fruits of economic growth.
"However, we still have a long way to go," said Wen.
He said the government would narrow the income gap by increasing the salaries of low-income groups and the minimum living allowances and containing salaries in industries with higher incomes.
"We will roll out measures in all these aspects, including tax policies, to make China a country of equality and justice where each citizen lives with the security net," said Wen.
Meanwhile, the government will increase spending in medical insurance system to make medical services accessible to every citizen, said Wen.
He said China would boost government subsidies this year for insurance premiums to 200 yuan ($30.4) a person, and inpatient medical fee reimbursement rates for urban residents and farmers will be lifted to 70 percent.
The government would work on policies to ensure patients were reimbursed for special medical programs such as renal dialysis, he said.
Wen also reiterated his determination to tame rising consumer prices and runaway housing prices during his tenure, vowing he "will not allow consumer prices to rise unchecked".