National People’s Congress opens – What promises are made?

7 Mar

On the 5th of March, “China’s Premier Wen Jiabao promised stable growth, anti-corruption efforts and better welfare provision as he opened an annual session of parliament”.

Economic and Social issues topped Wen Jiabao’s final work report that was released earlier this week. The report comes as the National People’s congress, which contains around 3000 delegates from across China, gathers to see the final stage of the countries once-in-a-decade leadership change, where Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will become president.

The report set a target GDP growth of 7.5% (unchanged from that of 2012), with the promise to create more than 9 million new urban jobs across the Nation. In 2010 the target GDP growth was 10.3% and in 2011 it was 9.2%; the 2012 reduction to 7.5% was the first reduction in the GDP target for 8 years as a result of the Financial Crisis, this year’s target growth however remained lower in order to allow for leeway for economic restructuring. “In light of comprehensive considerations, we deem it necessary and appropriate to set this year’s target for economic growth at about 7.5%, a goal that we will have to work hard to attain,” reads the report. In the second quarter of last year, China’s growth fell to 7.6%, which although within China’s target, dampened hopes about the recovery of China following from the Financial crisis.

“We must maintain a proper level of economic growth in order to provide necessary conditions for creating jobs and improving people’s wellbeing and to create a stable environment for changing the growth model and restructure the economy. We must ensure that economic growth is in accord with the potential economic growth rate,” says the report. In order to create a healthy economic development, economic restructuring aimed at improving the quality and performance has featured heavily in Wen Jiabao’s final work report.

The long term strategy to economic development has also aimed at increasing the wellbeing of China’s population. The report notes that the dramatic changes that have occurred in the Chinese economy have led to an increase in social issues, and that “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”.  A focus was placed upon the pension provision for the poor and the completion of 4.7 million subsidised urban homes with the aim to start construction on another 6.3 million within the year. This was discussed whilst also examining the severe environmental issues posed as a result of economic development; “The state of the ecological environment affects the level of the people’s well-being and also posterity and the future of our nation.”

On top of this, the report reiterated the focus of Mr Xi’s speech after he was formally appointed to lead the Communist Party in November – anti corruption. Mr Wen called for better checks on political power and a strengthened integrity within the political powers. “We should ensure that the powers of policy making, implementation and oversight both constrain each other and function in concert,” he said. In early January Mr Xi promised he would battle both “tigers” and “flies”, indicating that officials at all ranks were under scrutiny, and the re-iterance of anti-corruption within Mr Wen’s report, is evidence of the continued promise within the new government to fight against corruption.

With positive well-being, anti-corruption, environmentally sustainable issues examined and addressed within the report, plus the promise of economic restructuring, could 2013 see a positive change in Chinese society? Or are the calls in the report too optimistic for a country suffering from continued economic downturn, social inequality and environmental degradation?


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