Wen Jiabao 'well-being' vow as China parliament opens

 

Economic and social issues topped Wen Jiabao's final work report

China's Premier Wen Jiabao promised stable growth, anti-corruption efforts and better welfare provision as he opened an annual session of parliament.

Mr Wen, whose work report traditionally begins the session, also called for more balanced development in a lengthy speech on both achievements and plans.

This National People's Congress will see the final stage of the country's once-in-a-decade leadership change.

Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will become president, replacing Hu Jintao.

The event will be keenly watched to see who secures other top government posts.

This work report - a 29-page consensus document approved by the leadership - is Mr Wen's last. He is expected to be replaced by Li Keqiang as premier later in the parliament session.

The report set a target of 7.5% for economic growth, unchanged from 2012, with an inflation target of 3.5%, and promised to create more than nine million new urban jobs.

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How will Xi Jinping govern this huge, complex and increasingly powerful nation?”

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What does the future hold for China?

Mr Wen said boosting domestic consumption was key, calling it a "long-term strategy for economic development".

Noting that dramatic changes to Chinese society had led to a marked increase in social problems, Mr Wen said livelihood issues should be addressed.

"We must make ensuring and improving people's well-being the starting point and goal of all the government's work, give entire priority to it, and strive to strengthen social development,'' Mr Wen said.

He spoke of improving pension provision for the poor and also focused on the adverse effects of development on the environment, saying: "The state of the ecological environment affects the level of the people's well-being and also posterity and the future of our nation.''

Corruption - the focus of Mr Xi's speech after he was formally appointed to lead the Communist Party in November - was also on the agenda, with Mr Wen calling for strengthened "political integrity" and better checks on power.

Analysis

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise the final speech of Wen Jiabao's career was full of vague promises. After all, the lengthy work report was doubtlessly written by a large committee, including soon-to-be-retired President Hu Jintao and the incoming team of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.

China's leadership team was probably responsible for the first half of Mr Wen's speech, which outlined the government's perceived achievements over the past five years. For almost an hour, Mr Wen listed statistics exemplifying the government's successes. At one point, he told his audience that "31 airports and 602 shipping berths for 10,000-ton ships were built" in five years.

The second half of the speech was comparatively short on numbers, as Mr Wen outlined the government's agenda for 2013. He offered specific plans for some social security programmes, including a decision to boost some basic pension plans by 10%. However other serious challenges, from the environment to corruption, only received vague mentions.

The lack of detail wasn't lost on micro-blog users. "The report spent 50 minutes on achievement and three minutes listing problems. A great report indeed," one user wrote sarcastically. "There are so many issues on the agenda, but it is useless just to deliver proposals!" wrote another. One micro-blog thread soliciting policy ideas from average people has already received more than seven million hits.

"We should ensure that the powers of policy making, implementation and oversight both constrain each other and function in concert," he said.

State media also reported that defence spending would rise by 10.7% to 720.2bn yuan ($115.7bn, £76.5bn), a slight drop from the rise of 11.2% in 2012.

China's military spending has seen several years of double-digit growth - and observers say actual expenditure is believed to be far higher. But the figure falls well short of US military spending.

Nonetheless, increases to China's military budget are keenly watched both by the US and neighbouring countries with whom Beijing is currently engaged in a raft of territorial disputes.

In his speech, Mr Wen promised to "resolutely uphold China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity", drawing applause from delegates.

Vocal public

Around 3,000 delegates are attending the Congress, including members of the military, monks, ethnic minority representatives and business leaders. The majority are members of China's Communist Party.

Rather than debate policy, the role of the delegates is to ratify decisions already made by party officials behind closed doors, making the Congress essentially a rubber stamp parliament.

They are expected to approve plans to restructure several government departments as well as to amend some long-standing policies on the military, the virtual monopoly of some state enterprises and on individual freedoms.

While the exact schedule has not yet been made public, towards the end of the two-week-long event, Mr Xi will formally become the country's new president.

Since his party promotion in November, Mr Xi has been feted in Chinese media as a man of the people who shuns the usual trappings of his position, as well as a staunch nationalist.

He has also been quoted speaking firmly of the need to stamp out corruption at all levels, warning of civil unrest if party privilege is not tackled.

Also set for promotion is Li Keqiang who, as the replacement for Wen Jiabao, is expected to give a press conference at the end of the gathering.

Wen's report: 2013 policy targets

  • Economy to grow by 7.5% in 2013, with inflation kept to 3.5%
  • More than 9m jobs to be created in towns and cities, while urban unemployment to be kept below 4.6%
  • Boost consumer spending to make economy less dependent on exports
  • Implement a "proactive fiscal policy" giving priority to education, healthcare and social security
  • Complete 4.7m subsidised urban homes and begin construction on another 6.3m

Security has been tightened for the NPC, with police and other security personnel patrolling in increased numbers around the Great Hall of the People.

China's new leaders are set to inherit a far more vocal public than their predecessors faced, with social media now forcing them to address public concerns more than they ever have before.

On the eve of the Congress, the country's media reflected high public expectations, reporting demands for action on corruption, education, social care, the environment and inequality.

And after Mr Wen's speech, many internet users posting on weibo, Chinese versions of Twitter, appeared frustrated that the premier failed to present specific solutions to looming challenges.

Some highlighted particular concerns, such as reform of the household registration system, or water and air pollution, while others spoke out on the wealth gap.

"Whatever (economic) increase there has been has only benefitted corrupt officials; ordinary people are still poor," wrote one internet user on Tencent Weibo.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    #32 Britain didn't invade Gibraltar. It was ceded to us in the Treaty of Utretch
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Utrecht
    which among other things transfered New Foundland from France to British control.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    @27. DavidinUSA
    'Perhaps the best way to ensure the well-being of trhe Chinese will be for the communist regime to dissolve itself and allow an open, free society.'
    ...........
    I want a new Chairman Mao myself, we knew where we stood.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 32.

    @ 9.Khatki

    Nor will Tibet, in another 50 years as most will be Chinese, same as the British did in Falklands and Gibralter, move your own in and conqueur. The chinese have learnt well form the Brits.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 31.

    Also http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21659744 Clearly governments whether in China, Britain or elsewhere would rather we all bowed down and obeyed our Leaders. But it is right that attention is drawn to the failings of the Chinese government on so many issues. What is needed is real accountability and responsibility to the people not corporate or elite interests.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 30.

    Yes, a military power bent on world destruction that spent 20 Billion in France to lift their economy back. and 30 Billion for the Brits to live their lives

    I would advise Europe to stop looking a China through it's own cultural lens, none of Euro nations have ever experienced something akin to 200 years of peace in its past, China has been inward looking thus power and status quo frozen

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 29.

    I don't think any of you even viewed the recent dossier from the Israel and Japanese military intelligence networks reporting on theft of their military secrets, the number 1 is the United States

    While you disgruntled jobless plebs and liberals bash about China none of you have the good sense to criticize Israel's massacre and imperialism of Palestine. China & Israel are born in 1949. Hypocrite

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    Who needs Chinese censorship when the BBC does it for you. You can demand we give back Gibraltar & the Falklands but point out Argentina invaded South Georgia & its 'refered for consideration'? Presumably the same mod who decided 'My grandfather did his national service with Bernard Cribbins' was libel! (its true BTW. In Palestine with the paras just after WW2)

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 27.

    Perhaps the best way to ensure the well-being of trhe Chinese will be for the communist regime to dissolve itself and allow an open, free society.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 26.

    6. Northern1, it’s not a question of being a champion of China; simply put you are too late. What do you wish to do, start a war with China? Mutually assured destruction ring any bells? Economic warfare given how much of the world’s manufacturing they do already and how much foreign currency they hold this would damage us more than them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    @14 Paul
    My sentiments exactly, what do they do when politicians retire in China
    Cut their fins off and throw them back ?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 24.

    4.EmptyS - "The Chinese government is morally bankrupt. They stamp down hard on any dissent in order to "protect" the citizens who make-up the state.........."


    Soon to be seen in Blighty too if certain senior Tories get their way...


    ...there a severe lack of respect for human rights in certain Government ranks here too don't forget....


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21651004

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 22.

    "What is the point in commenting on this rather dull topic we cannot influence?"
    +++++


    30% tariff on dumped Chinese goods by EU and US (cf. artificially low kept yuan), with PRC's economy being mostly export-based, would have no influence? Tell me another. :-)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 21.

    Democracy is good but not for everybody and all the time.
    +++

    Indeed. It was not good for Nazi Germany, Soviet Union (where are they now?) Cuba and North Korea.Democracy is not a good option for any police totalitarian state.
    Or for any religious fanatical state"

    ++++

    And what about undemcratic UN, a corrupt tool to justify illegal actions of "democratic" countries?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 20.

    5. Desiderius Erasmus, do you know how much your opinion maters to the Chinese government? Not at all, western consumers and companies keep sending vast sums of wealth into their economy which grows while ours shrink. That is why China will become the economic super power of this century.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    HYS soon to be spammed by Chinese fan boys and communist party stooges.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 17.

    12.Lumi-Mies
    We make too much fuss about democracy. Democracy is good but not for everybody and all the time.
    ++++



    Indeed. It was not good for Nazi Germany, Soviet Union (where are they now?) Cuba and North Korea.

    Democracy is not a good option for any police totalitarian state.

    Or for any religious fanatical state (cf. Islamist Republic of Iran).

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 16.

    Not the most interesting HYS come on BBC you can do better. The speech was pretty much what I would have expected and the Chinese care about the opinion of the western chattering classes not at all. What is the point in commenting on this rather dull topic we cannot influence?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    8. Samp18
    For all the Brits moaning about Tibet, don't you think you should give back Falklands and Gibraltar just as a start
    --
    Which suggests you know less than zero as to how we got Gibraltar in the first place. Google 'the war of Spanish succession' and its associated peace treaty. If we break that particular agreement Spain presumably will be wanting the French throne again!

 

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