(LinkAsia: March 9, 2012)
The largest legislative body in the world is holding its annual meeting this week. At about 3,000 members, China’s National People’s Congress covers topics similar to its counterparts in other countries. But faced with a weak global economy, this year China and the rest of the world are focusing more than usual on the Chinese economy and the impending leadership transition this fall. For example, Japanese broadcaster NHK covered the social issues that China is struggling to address and speculated on the transition of the country’s top leaders, many of whom are expected to step down to make way for a younger generation later this year. Here's the story.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: March 5, 2012
This is the Great Hall of the People where the annual conference of the National People’s Congress is taking place. About 3,000 delegates from all over China have gathered here in Beijing. Premier Wen Jiabao used a two-hour speech on the first day of the congress to outline the government’s policies for the coming year. He said China’s leaders would put the brakes on their speedy economy and shift from growth to stability.
Wen Jiabao, Chinese Premier:
The target for this year’s economic growth is to increase GDP by 7.5 percent. We hope to make economic development more sustainable and efficient so as to achieve higher level, higher quality development over a longer period of time.
Chinese officials had kept the target at around 8 percent for the past 7 years. Wen blamed the change on the international credit crisis and domestic problems, such as inflation. He also frankly addressed some of the other issues facing the government.
Problems concerning land expropriation, housing demolition, workplace safety, food and drug safety, and income distribution are still very serious. And the people are still very concerned about them.
Many Chinese people are frustrated with corruption or local bureaucrats for neglecting their duties. The government seems to be trying to maintain social stability to ensure a smooth power transition this fall by placing priority on people over economic growth.
This shift in policy is not the only thing attracting public interest. The congress session is also an occasion to speculate on the leadership change that's expected at the Communist Party’s convention this fall.
The nine-member Politburo Standing Committee effectively controls China, a country that's been ruled by one political party since 1949. The committee's getting an overhaul. Seven members will likely be replaced by younger leaders at this fall's convention.
Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to assume the post of general secretary, putting him on track to become president of China next year. Vice Premier Li Keqiang will likely become his premier. Bo Xilai is widely expected to join the Standing Committee. Right now, he's the secretary of the Communist Party's Chongqing Committee. Bo is currently involved in a controversy. We learned just before the congress opened that one of his close aides is being investigated on corruption and other charges. Bo seems to be trying to show things are business as usual. He's attending the meetings at the congress. But some observers say the series of developments may have some impact on China's change of leadership.
The power struggle over top posts appears to be accelerating, and there's a lot of speculation here in Beijing. People in China and other countries are closely watching the congress to see what party leaders will do.