China's Premier Says Gap Between Rich, Poor Growing

China says it will focus its attenion on boosting economic growth in the coming year, while working to address a large wealth disparity between the country's professional and working classes.

Opening the annual session of the Chinese parliament Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao urged caution moving forward from the global economic crisis, saying 2010 is a "crucial" year for recovery.

Mr. Wen acknowledged lawmakers' concerns about rising inflation caused by a lending program implemented last year to cushion the blow of the economic crisis. He said banks will cut the number of new loans by about 20 percent this year.

He also said Beijing will draft policies this year to boost development in Xinjiang and Tibet as well as other Tibetan-inhabited areas.

"We will focus on formulating and implementing policies for economic and social development in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Tibetan ethnic areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces," China Daily quoted Wen, as saying in his government work report to the annual session of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

And he said the government will continue to negotiate with Taiwan on a free trade pact with the goal of promoting improved cross-strait relations and "peaceful reunification" with the self-ruled island.

Thursday, China announced it plans to increase its military budget by 7.5 percent this year -- the smallest increase in more than two decades.

Mr. Wen told parliament the country will conintue to play a role in the international community, especially in climate change and energy cooperation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and ANI.