China's parliament convenes as new leadership expected
The 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, opened its first annual session Tuesday morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
NPC deputies will elect new president and vice president, decide on a new premier, vice premiers and cabinet, as well as deliberate a government institutional reform plan.
Nearly 3,000 NPC deputies from across the country attended the opening meeting along with top Party and state leaders Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli.
Premier Wen Jiabao delivered a government work report at the opening meeting, chaired by Zhang Dejiang, executive chairperson of the session's presidium.
It was the last time that Wen delivered the government work report as the premier.
"Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, let us unite as one and work hard to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," said Wen.
His report set the country's economic growth target of this year at 7.5 percent and promised to curb the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase at around 3.5 percent.
It also vowed to create more than 9 million new urban jobs and keep the registered urban unemployment at or below 4.6 percent.
The government will work to ensure that the per capita income of residents increases in step with economic growth, according to the report which was distributed to media ahead of the meeting.
The year 2013 is the first year for fully carrying out the guiding principles of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress, a crucial year for continuing to implement the 12th Five-Year Plan and an important year for laying a solid foundation for finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, Wen said.
"China remains in an important period of strategic opportunities during which much can be accomplished," he said.
There are many favorable conditions and positive factors as well as a number of risks and challenges for China's economic and social development, he said.
The profound impact of the global financial crisis persists, and the recovery of the world economy is full of uncertainty and not yet on a stable footing, he said.
Wen warned of a number of difficulties and problems China have been facing, such as unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development as well as increasing conflict between the economic growth and environment.
China sees a growing conflict between downward pressure on economic growth and excess production capacity, he said.
"The development gap between urban and rural areas and between regions is large, and so are income disparities between individuals," he said.
The government has not fully carried out the transformation of its functions and some areas are prone to corruption, he added.
SUGGESTION FOR SUCCESSOR
In his report, Wen, the premier since 2003, made several suggestions to the next cabinet, stressing the importance of changing the growth model and pressing ahead the reform.
He suggested that the country should expand domestic demand as a long-term strategy for economic development.
"To expand individual consumption, we should enhance peoples' ability to consume, keep their consumption expectations stable, boost their desire to consume, improve the consumption environment and make economic growth more consumption-driven," he said.
The premier also proposed to reduce the share of government investment in the country's total investment and ease the control over market access for private capital.
Wen encouraged the next government to deepen reform and opening up with "greater political courage and vision."
He talked about the reform of state-owned enterprises, the fiscal and taxation systems, the relations between the central government and local governments, financial industry, the investment and financing systems as well as public institutions.
Particularly, he noted that the government has issued guidelines on deepening reform of the income distribution system and now needs to promptly formulate specific policies.
At this national legislative session, deputies will deliberate an institutional restructuring of the State Council.
Wen called on the government to continue transforming functions, separate the administration from the management of enterprises, state assets, public institutions and social organizations, in a bid to build a "well-structured, clean, efficient and service-oriented government."
FRUITFUL FIVE YEARS
The past five years since the first session of the 11th NPC were a "truly extraordinary period of time" in the course of China's development, Premier Wen said.
Pulling through the global financial crisis, the country's GDP increased from 26.6 trillion yuan (4.22 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2007 to 51.9 trillion yuan (8.24 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2012, now the world's second largest, according to Wen's report.
Government revenue increased from 5.1 trillion yuan to 11.7 trillion yuan while a total of 58.7 million urban jobs were created.
The per capita disposable income of urban residents rose by 8.8 percent annually, and the per capita net income of rural residents rose by 9.9 percent.
China is more innovative, the report said. Breakthroughs were made in developing manned space flight and the lunar exploration program, building a manned deep-sea submersible, launching the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, developing supercomputers and building high-speed railways.
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned last year.
The country also successfully hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing and the World Expo in Shanghai.
It stood against serious challenges from the massive Wenchuan earthquake, the strong Yushu earthquake and the huge Zhugqu mudslide, and effectively carried out rehabilitation.