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Listening to China's worries good for the world

BEIJING, March 15 -- The world is used to hearing about the West's concerns over China-related issues, so it may come as a surprise how frequently China's worries came up during Premier Wen Jiabao's press conference Sunday.

The term "worries" was used as many as 13 times during the concluding press conference of this year's NPC session, while it was used only about four times when Wen met the press upon the conclusion of the "two sessions" in 2009, and it was not used at all in Wen's 2007 and 2008 press conferences.

The signal conveyed here is strong and clear: China is deeply concerned with the mounting domestic and external pressures, both of which pose severe tests for its savvy and vision.

Justice is the top item in China's long list of worries. It outweighs other anxieties, as it spells out the root cause for many other thorny domestic problems, including corruption, income distribution, the hukou (residency permit) system, housing price bubbles and inflation.

As Wen stated, "Equity and justice are the basis of social stability, and they shine brighter than the sun." While this year's NPC session has been hailed for having passed an amendment to the electoral law, which grants equal representation to urban and rural citizens in the legislature, China has far to go toward both economic and political justice.

No less pressing are China's worries over the outside world.

The nation is concerned over the safety of its huge US Treasury bond holdings, over the uncertain global economic outlook, and above all, over the West's growing but needless worries about China, which loom large and show up almost everywhere from calls for the yuan to appreciate to comments on China's "assertive" tone.

Undoubtedly, speaking out about worries is not Chinese tradition. In a conventionally conservative society, Chinese are accustomed to talking about giving assurance to minimize worries, instead of about having worries themselves.

Even during the worst time of the global financial crisis, when China's economy suffered a huge blow in the aftermath of Lehman's collapse, it was still Western nations, not China, that expressed anxieties.

But now it is time for the world to keep an open ear to China's worries. Chinese' own sentiment toward their developing nation should have many complicated layers. Whether it be pride over China's rising clout or worries over its prickly problems, all these contribute to the depiction of a true China.

A nation with confidence is by no means one free of worries. Despite the tremendous progress it has made, China must remain clear-headed about the various tough challenges it faces in 2010, "the most complicated year."

Everyone is in the same boat, as the post-financial crisis world is intertwined more closely than ever before.

Listening to China's worries will help China mitigate those concerns, and will be good for the world at large.

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