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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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
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    Comment number 74.

    @RememberTS, the Chinese government may be corrupt and reprehensible for its occupation of Tibet, but to call it the vilest regime in the world is surely an unqualified statement. Furthermore, what is occurring in Tibet can not be called a genocide by the word's typical connotation. It should be specified as a cultural genocide, though certainly it is just as grave an issue.

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 72.

    Lustiquick, you should read what 68 wrote more carefully. The post said Tibet is the largest country in the world UNDER OCCUPATION. Also the Tibetan people do not have any say in whom rules them unlike the people of Scotland.

  • Comment number 71.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 70.

    68 is the best posting on this site. Let us remember what were a happy and deeply spiritual people in Tibet who would now rather burn themselves to death than live under the vilest regime in the world. HH Dalai Lama is loved and respected all over the world. China is despised. As well as atteempted genocide in Tibet , remember what they did to their own young students in Tiananmen Sq. Evil !!!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 69.

    The largest country is Russia...That's why you don't understand the thing.

    I support NI and Scotland to be independent!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 68.

    Let's not forget Tibet, the largest country in the world under enforced, and brutal, military occupation by a foreign power - China.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 67.

    "many internet users posting on weibo, Chinese versions of Twitter,"......"Some highlighted particular concerns, such as reform of the household registration system, or water and air pollution,"

    Some even wanted some white women to BMW and have many kids.

    Some wanted an easier way to move to the US and UK to live without having lots of money or a good paying job.

    But most wanted a car.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 66.

    63-HH Dalai Lama respected and loved all over the civilised world and Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Will Wen, Hu, Li, Xi or any of the Beijing clique ever be respected in the world? No. They preside like warlords over a billion people who have no say in how they wish to be governed.No religious tolerance, Tibetans so desperate thast 100 have now killed themselves --the world understands why.Recall TS?

  • Comment number 65.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 64.

    China is no longer communist. Not even the Chinese themselves still believe the "communist propaganda" bs... where everyone is supposed to be equal. It has become one of the most unapologetic capitalistic countries in the world.

    It has become little more than a massive corrupt dictatorship where the "ins" cling to power in order to milk the system and line their pockets with billions.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    Tibetans in exile please rest your case already? Tibet was never an independant nation. It was and always will be within the chinese domain. Tibet is important to us strategically and economically. A few warlords fled to india along with their power thirsty dalai lama just won't change anything. we'll never leave our back door unguarded.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 62.

    An earlier version (eg at “5 March 2013 Last updated at 08:22 GMT”) of this story’s front-page puff was:

    _/_/_/_/

    Final curtain for China's old leaders

    Premier Wen Jiabao issues pledges on growth, corruption and "well-being" as he opens China's annual parliament, the final stage of the leadership change.

    _/_/_/_/

    Growth, corruption and well-being? That’s the ticket. Good old China.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 61.

    59 says UK democracy is gone. Where does he come from---Mars ? We voted for our Govt in UK, roughly knowing what they were going to do on our behalf.
    Hu voted for Xi and Li ???? Wen were they elected??? Filthy polluted country with a filthy system of an unelected clique in Beijing.We in West very lucky: freedom of elected Govt, free speech, follow our religion,no sudden Li and Xi appearing LOL .

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 60.

    Chinese Communism has historically been a force for peace in the world. China's military interventions have always been aimed at restoring democratic governments in Asia, such as in the Vietnam war when the South Vietnamese refused the UN's plebiscite on reunification.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 59.

    For those you shout for democracy in China, UK seems to be a democractic country - we can vote, we can choose our religion etc, but it boils down to the fact that we cannot oppose what the Government has decided to do either with the country or our money. Democracy is all but long gone.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 58.

    The West just keep buying our China made junk and we will all be very happy! Send bigger container ships! We can fill them to the gunnels! We buy ALL Australia's minerals and turn it in to ANYTHING you want!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 57.

    Personal freedom and democracy are ideals all people should enjoy (although, let's face the fact here in the "free world" that we are losing personal freedoms at an alarming pace). That being said, it's high time China tackles it's pollution problems head on. If anything is going to cause serious damage to their economy, it's the mess they're making of that beautiful land.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    Why don't BBC commend on other countries, Mr Lata? Provided that a vital thing is happening over the world, BBC will be required to report them, which is their responsibility. If you are keen to some odds and ends, why don't you read tabloids?
    As for this news, next leaderships will be suppose to concentrate on some formidable problems: corruption, wasting, quality of populace in particular.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 55.

    Next superpower? Not with their political system I hope... Lets not forget that they rely on countries like ours for their money. China will have to make a bigger change soon once there people realise they are being subtly brainwashed and used! I doubt they will go quietly. They say they are tackling corruption when there government practically runs on it! Sounds like politics to me...

 

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