CHINA’S Premier Wen Jiabao rejected any comparison between his country and the unrest-hit Middle East, but said Beijing faced a tough test dealing with inflation and other hot-button issues.

“We face extremely daunting tasks and complex domestic and international situations,” Mr Wen said in an annual press briefing after the close of the nation’s parliament session.

China’s ruling Communist Party is grappling with a range of problems such as inflation, official corruption, huge environmental degradation, and land grabs by property developers who kick off existing residents.

The leadership has thus watched with concern the unrest that has hit several nations in the Middle East and North Africa, but Wen rejected any comparison between China and those countries.

“We have followed closely the turbulence in some North African and Middle Eastern countries. “We believe it is not right to draw an analogy between China and those countries,” Mr Wen said.

Beijing has targeted more balanced and sustainable development and fairer distribution of wealth under a new growth plan for the next five years that calls for a more moderate seven percent annual economic expansion.  Mr Wen said that mission will remain the government’s priority but he admitted that steering the world’s second-largest economy will not be easy.

“It will not be easy to achieve the seven percent target while also ensuring a good quality of economic development,” he said.  “Over the next five years and for a long period of time to come in the course of China’s development, we will make the transformation of China’s economic development pattern our priority.”

Inflation tops the government’s agenda and Wen pledged further efforts to contain rising prices of food, housing and other essentials, which he has previously warned could impact “social stability”.  Inflation has remained stubbornly high – 4.9 percent in both January and February – despite a series of policy steps including three recent interest rate hikes.

The consumer price index rose by a more than two-year high of 5.1 percent in November. Inflation has a history of sparking unrest in China, with its hundreds of millions of poor farmers and low-paid workers scraping to get by.

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