China's central bank chief vowed on Friday to keep prices stable in 2011, joining other Communist Party leaders in a major charm offensive to ease consumer concerns over soaring food and property costs.
People shop for fruit and vegetables at an outdoor market in Beijing.
The People's Bank of China governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, also reiterated that policymakers would carry out a "prudent monetary policy" in 2011 -- signalling further interest rate hikes and other tightening measures could be on the way.
Zhou's comments come after President Hu Jintao visited low-income families in the capital on Wednesday and promised the government would do more to help needy people, amid growing concerns over the country's widening wealth gap.
"The government will attach great importance to affordable housing projects and will carefully supervise the quality of these projects and improve nearby public facilities," the China Daily quoted Hu as saying.
Last weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao spoke on live radio to reassure listeners that the government would be able to tackle inflation and house prices that have risen out of the reach of many ordinary Chinese.
Wen said Sunday he understood that recent price rises had "actually made life even more difficult for people on low and medium incomes".
But he stressed that thanks to government intervention, "we are fully able to control the general level of prices" and said he was confident that housing prices would come back down to a "reasonable level".
The premier's message came one day after the central bank hiked interest rates for the second time in less than three months.
Ever fearful of inflation's historical potential to spark social unrest, top leaders have been pulling on a variety of levers to rein in consumer prices and tame runaway house prices.
On Thursday, China ordered local officials to fine property developers who have left land vacant for more than one year amid a crack down on hoarding that has been blamed for driving up real estate values.
The central bank has also ordered lenders to keep more money in reserve, effectively limiting the amount of funds they can lend.
The government meanwhile has pledged to ensure adequate supply of key food and fuel products, crack down on food and property speculators and boost assistance for the needy.
Zhou's comments on Friday came as the central bank set the strongest yuan exchange rate against the dollar since vowing to loosen its grip on the currency in June.
The People's Bank of China set the yuan central parity rate -- the middle of the currency's allowed trading band -- at 6.6227 to the dollar, meaning it has appreciated about three percent against the greenback since June 19.
The gradual appreciation in the yuan benefits the world's second-largest economy by reducing import costs and easing inflationary pressures, according to Sheng Songcheng, director of the PBOC's Statistics and Analysis Department.
Sheng made the remarks in the central bank-backed Financial News on Thursday.