China media: Retirement debate

File photo: A group of elderly people in China Details of the plan to raise the age of retirement remain unclear

Chinese media welcome moves to raise the retirement age gradually, but call for an end to "injustices" in the pensions system.

Since the government announced plans on Tuesday to raise the retirement age in progressive steps, the media have been welcoming the move but have called for the plans to proceed cautiously to allay public concerns.

"With the current general oversupply in the labour market, won't delayed retirement aggravate a difficult employment situation?" asks the People's Daily.

The current retirement age in China is 60 or 55 for men, 55 or 50 for women, according to Chinese regulations. However, the government has not announced a timetable or further details on how the plan will be carried out.

According to a poll published by people.com.cn in November, about 70% of 1,062 people interviewed oppose the delay, notes the Global Times.

In an emotive editorial on Wednesday, the Chongqing Morning News welcomed the idea of delayed retirement, but urged caution. It says an older working population could end up squeezing job opportunities for young people in an already difficult employment environment.

"Some people do not need to pay old age insurance but they can still receive a lucrative pension, while others can only receive a meagre pension despite paying the old age insurance... We are not opposed to delayed retirement, but are opposed to all kinds of injustice behind this and are even more opposed to all the privileges behind this," says the editorial.

In international news, the Global Times accuses the "West" of exploiting Russian Vladimir Putin's anti-gay legislation as an excuse to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi. German President Joachim Gauck and European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding have announced that they are not attending the games.

Some artists and athletes, including pop singer Lady Gaga, have also called for a boycott of the Sochi Games.

'Blind' landings

In other news, members of the public are up in arms after the central government dropped the traditional Lunar New Year's eve as a public holiday as part of the national holiday plans for 2014.

Chinese New Year's Eve, celebrated on 30 January next year, is traditionally a time for the Chinese to reunite with families and set off firecrackers to greet the arrival of a new lunar year.

The Global Times says the vast majority of internet users have voted against the arrangement in an online poll by Sina news portal.

Starting on 1 January, Chinese civil aviation authorities will require all commercial pilots flying between Beijing and major airports in the country to upgrade their capability for "blind" landings in severe smog conditions, The Beijing News reports.

A recent spate of smog has caused the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights across the country.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been increasing funding for research into how chronic pollution affects fertility amid a "particularly grim" situation, says Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

And finally, the Global Times reports that an event scheduled on 26 December to commemorate the 120th anniversary of communist republic founder Mao Zedong's birth, has been changed to a New Year's gala.

However, the performers and the content of the show will remain basically unchanged, and Liuyang River, Remember the Words of Chairman Mao and other Mao-related "red songs" will still be performed.

"One can feel that official authorities are very cautious about the commemoration activities," one person organising the Mao birthday celebrations tells Hong Kong's Ming Pao.

"The authorities don't want the commemorations for Mao to be high-profile... Some regional conservative people and officials with vested interests want to restrain reform by falsely promoting some of Mao's most conservative thoughts, which is not what the party follows," Wang Zhanyang, director of the Political Science Department at the Central Institute of Socialism, tells the Global Times.

Hong Kong's Oriental Daily notes that the authorities also cancelled on Wednesday night the launch of a 100-episode drama Mao Zedong, and broadcast a programme instead on Nie Rongzhen, a communist military leader.

The Oriental Daily says the outside world is speculating over whether the change in Mao's commemoration is connected with unconfirmed international media reports that former security chief and retired Communist Party leader, Zhou Yongkang, has been placed under virtual house arrest in an internal corruption probe.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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