China’s Premier Wen Opens National People’s Congress

The annual meeting of the National People’s Congress opens Monday in Beijing. This congress is the last meeting before the leadership transition later this year. Premier Wen Jiabao opened the meeting with a work report. AP reports:

In a speech to open the annual National People’s Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao said the government planned growth of 7.5 percent this year — a target below previous goals. The government wants a slightly slower pace of growth as it tries to rebalance the world’s second-largest economy.

Wen said boosting domestic consumption is “crucial” to China’s future.

He said the government will boost spending on social services and raise incomes for middle- and low-income groups, as well as expand consumer credit.

He also said subsidies for agriculture would be boosted. Just under 50 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people live in rural areas that are dependent on agriculture.

Meanwhile, budgets for both defense and domestic security are expected to rise more than 11%. The brave souls at Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog are live-tweeting the meetings. They have also posted searchable PDFs of Wen Jiabao’s report and other key reports from the sessions. For a briefer version, China Daily has posted highlights from Wen’s report.

In an article with the perhaps optimistic headline, “China debates the big issues at Party Congress,” CNN provides some background on the NPC and what is expected to occur at this year’s meetings:

Since the early 1990s, the NPC has passed several laws aimed at building up a legal system and has sought to promulgate a “rule by law” rather than a “rule by men” — an attempt to steer the party away from its Maoist structures to fit more closely the international norms that govern the world’s capital markets.

Among the raft of new legislation expected to be passed at the NPC are labor laws, securities laws, corporation laws, banking laws and environmental protection laws. The body also has the power to elect, dismiss and reassign local and central government officials, including the state president, the premier, top judges and ministers.

Despite this, elections are carefully choreographed, and typically there is only one candidate for one position. Token disapproval or dissent is usually shown by means of abstentions rather than straight “no” votes.

The official Global Times, meanwhile, insists that, “NPC legislative system demonstrates Chinese democracy in action.

See reporting from previous years NPC meetings via CDT. The tag clouds at the top of most of these pages give a nice overview of the key issues for each year’s meetings:

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