New leaders, old issues National legislature to focus on growth, corruption and territorial disputes2014.03.05
THE annual National People’s Congress (NPC, 全國人民代表大會) opened this week. It is the first under a new Communist Party leadership facing intractable problems that include endemic corruption, slowing economic growth and tensions with neighbouring countries.
The NPC, which began on Monday at the imposing Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, serves as a show of unity in the nation and the ruling party.
The event kicks off amid much fanfare, with colourfully clad delegates from ethnic minorities and military officers in dress uniform arriving at the hall.
A centrepiece will be the presentation of various “work reports” – the most important of which will be read by Premier Li Keqiang.
Analysts will closely watch for the annual economic growth target, given at 7.5 percent for last year, for insight into the leadership’s thinking about the economy and how they expect it to perform.
The annual official defence budget will also be prominent. Last year, the figure was raised by 10.7 percent to 720.2 billion yuan (HK$909.2 billion).
Other topics likely to be mentioned in the report are an ongoing and high-profile crackdown on official corruption, the nation’s multiple environmental problems, economic reforms, and territorial disputes in theEast and South China seas.
Those problems were all mentioned in some fashion at last year’s meeting.
“And they will still be here next year,” said Steve Tsang, an expert in Chinese politics at Britain’s University of Nottingham.
“All of those major issues will take much longer than a year or two to fix,” he said, adding the leadership will likely use the NPC to play up progress made, most notably in the corruption crackdown.
“The curbing of corruption means the capacity of the party to function is stronger. Corruption weakens party discipline.”
Last year’s NPC set the seal on the once-a-decade leadership transition. It saw Xi Jinping, who had become party secretary general the previous November, take the helm as state president as well, while Li replaced Wen Jiabao as premier.