About 3000 delegates have gathered in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a two-week session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress.
The session will include the final stage of a once-in-a-decade transition of leadership in the Communist party that runs the world’s second-largest economy.
Nikki Canning reports.
The National People’s Congress began with Premier Wen Jiabao’s report card on the country’s progress over the past five years.
Premier Wen pointed out to delegates the great technological progress being made for an emerging economy, and China’s resilience in recovering from a number of natural disasters.
[under translation] “We have a spaceship lanched, and [new] land and aircraft have been launched as well. In the computing and high-speed world we have also made great achievements. The first (Chinese) submarine has been launched and we have also successfully hosted the Beijing Olympics and Special Olympics [Paralympics] and the Shanghai Expo.”
Premier Wen also reminded delegates that China has shown great resilience as other countries suffered a financial crisis.
China’s economy is seen as a key driver of global recovery, but has struggled in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.
It grew 7.8 per cent in 2012, its worst performance for 13 years, but normally exceeds the target set at the People’s Congress.
Premier Wen has set this year’s target for economic growth at about 7.5 per cent, saying the country will have to work hard to achieve it.
His report sets 2013’s inflation target at 3.5 per cent, after it came in at 2.6 per cent in 2012.
Premier Wen also signalled that the country’s new leaders will no longer emphasise growth at all costs and would instead focus on social programs.
“We have increased investment of four-trillion [RMB] and the Central Government has invested 2.6-trillion in wellbeing projects. This investment goes into the environment, into rebuilding after natural disasters. Over the five years, we have built more that 18-million low-income houses.”
This session of Congress will complete China’s leadership transition that began with a Communist Party congress in November last year, that appointed Xi Jinping as party leader.
Xi will formally be named president during the 13-day session of Congress, replacing the outgoing Hu Jintao.
Premier Wen is also coming to the end of a decade in office.
His successor in charge of day-to-day government will be Li Keqiang.
Premier Wen ended his report card by foreshadowing brighter days ahead for the country under its new leadership.
“Looking forward, it is a bright future in front of us. Under the leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, we’ll be united as one and striving hard to build this society and to realise our regeneration of the Chinese nation. Let’s strive and let’s go on [forward].” [applause]