WORLD

Wen Jiabao ‘well-being’ vow as China parliament opens

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

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