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Party chief shows his concern over prices as Spring Festival approaches
Bread is the staff of life, according to a famous saying.
Party chief Xi Jinping showed a clear understanding of the very essence of that saying as he inquired about food prices and availability during a visit to Wuquan market in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, on Monday morning.
"Are food prices rising? Are vegetables locally produced?" Xi asked.
He stopped at several stalls during his tour to ask the questions, according to a report on Xinhua News Agency's micro blog.
Vegetable seller Li Fengying spoke to Xi.
"I was quite excited to meet him, and glad to see his interest in prices," she told China Daily.
A resident, surnamed Zhang, saw Xi's visit to the market.
"It is good to see the Party chief interested in prices,'' said Zhang, 72. "This year's food prices, generally, are comparatively high, and I do hope the government can ensure the quality of items such as eggs, meat and vegetables."
Xi's visit came a few days before Spring Festival on Feb 10. Traditionally, food prices rise in the run-up to the festival.
Premier Wen Jiabao asked commerce departments on Monday to guarantee supply and draw up contingency plans to meet any possible emergencies, during a visit to the Ministry of Commerce.
Food prices must be monitored and quality supervision enforced, he said.
Xi also visited a restaurant in Lanzhou on Monday where senior citizens can have a meal, consisting of three dishes and a soup, for 6 yuan (90 cents).
The local budget has a subsidy of 9 yuan for each meal.
"Is the food sufficient? Is it properly prepared and clean?" he asked. "How many restaurants of this kind are there in the city?"
In a gesture of respect to the elderly, Xi raised a dish of food, and walked over to 72-year-old Yang Lintai to hand it to him.
The city has 52 restaurants of the type Xi visited, and they offered nearly 220,000 subsidized meals for senior citizens in 2012, according to Xinhua.
Guo Ping, a researcher at the China Research Center on Aging, said Chengguan district in Lanzhou started a program in 2008 to hire community workers to provide services such as cooking, assisted bathing and home cleaning for elderly residents.
Senior citizens can pay for the services and poor residents can get some of them for free, he said.
Each year the budget allocates 10 million yuan for the project, reported Lanzhou Daily.
"Xi attached great importance to the welfare of senior citizens when he was top leader in Shanghai," Guo said.
"Xi's visit to the restaurant signals that the new generation of Party leaders will give the elderly a higher priority," he said.
Ye Duchu, a professor of Party building at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said Xi's latest moves reveal the new generation of Party leaders' "meticulous" care for the welfare of the people.
"It's the Party's great tradition to mingle with the grassroots, and Xi has set a good example for Party and government officials at all levels," he said.
Ye said Xi's recent visits to the grassroots will also greatly affect the sessions of the national legislators and political advisers in March.
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