BEIJING (Reuters) - China will fight to control inflation and crack down on property speculators in the year ahead, state media on Wednesday quoted Premier Wen Jiabao as saying, as the country readied to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.
In a speech marking the Lunar New Year holiday and carried in major newspapers, Wen said the government would try to keep overall consumer prices stable but cautioned China would have to deal with thorny problems in 2011.
"Our way ahead will still face many difficulties and problems," Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily quoted him as saying.
"We must ... resolve the problems that the people most care about," he added. "We must resolutely prevent prices from rising too fast ... and unswervingly do a good job of controlling the property market."
The government has vowed repeatedly to tame inflation, a source of social unrest in the past and a major concern for the ruling Communist Party, which prizes stability above all else.
Though inflation eased in December to an annual pace of 4.6 percent, economists warn price pressure will continue to mount.
Wen, who in previous years has spent the Lunar New Year holiday with everyone from AIDS patients to survivors of 2008's devastating Sichuan earthquake, this year visited an old revolutionary base in the poor central province of Anhui.
The official Xinhua news agency showed pictures of him taking a toast with happy villagers and cooking over an enormous wok, wearing a blue checked apron with a rabbit on its front.
"Is your household facing any hardships?" state radio quoted Wen as asking a villager, to which he was told everything was great, thanks to "the Party's policies".
The government has yet to announce where President Hu Jintao visited to mark the country's biggest holiday. Last year he called on investors from Taiwan in the southeastern province of Fujian.
Visits by top leaders over the Lunar New Year are typically tightly scripted events heavy on the propaganda.
Beijing and the commercial capital Shanghai will later in the evening reverberate with huge fireworks.
Firecrackers are believed to scare off evil spirits and entice the god of wealth to people's doorsteps once New Year's Day arrives. Celebrations will carry on into the early hours of Thursday, officially the first day of the Lunar New Year.