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China's poor beg for change

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
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BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 02: Yao Ming, NBA basketball star and a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), walks outside the Great Hall of the People after the pre-opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on March 2, 2013 in Beijing, China. The reshuffle will be completed at the first annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), which is scheduled to begin on March 5, and the first annual session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which will commence on March 3. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

China's new leadership that formally takes over this month can radically improve Chen Qiuyang's life by even one change — providing running water in her village in a remote corner in the province of Gansu.

“We have to carry water from the well on our shoulders several times a day. It's exhausting,” Chen, who looked older than her 28 years, said while resting on a stool outside her home after completing another trip to the well.

Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping takes over as China's new president on Tuesday during the annual meeting of parliament. Bridging the widening income gap in the vast nation is one of his foremost challenges.

Xi effectively has been running China since assuming leadership of the party and military — where real power lies — in November. He already has projected a more relaxed, softer image than his stern predecessor Hu Jintao.

He faces pressure to tackle problems accumulated during Hu's era, such as inequality and pervasive corruption. Circumstances have given rise to often violent outbursts in the world's second-biggest economy.

Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao is likely to address these issues in his last “state of the nation” report at the National People's Congress to nearly 3,000 delegates. Their ranks include CEOs, generals, political leaders and Tibetan monks, as well as some of the nation's richest businessmen.

China now has 317 billionaires — a fifth of the total number in the world — and is on track to overtake the United States as the largest luxury-vehicle market by 2016.

Yet the United Nations says 13 percent of China's 1.3 billion population, or about 170 million people, still live on less than $1.25 a day.

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