March 06, 2008

National People's Congress Open For Business

The first session of the 11th National People’s Congress convened Wednesday (March 5, 2008) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Premier or Prime Minister Wen Jiabao opened the session with remarks on the state of the Chinese union emphasizing challenges ahead particularly dealing with inflation.

Beijing will pursue a “tight monetary policy” according to Wen signaling the central government’s worry over excessive liquidity and runaway growth in some areas.

As expected, Beijing will channel excess cash into more state investment, already accounting for over 45% of China’s Gross Domestic Product. Investment targets will be health care and social security bureaucracies based on United States models. Housing and safe drinking water for China’s impoverished classes will also receive state directed investment.

The Congress will vote on the candidates already selected last October by the Communist Party for top government positions. Hu Jintao will no doubt be elected for a second and final 5 year term as President.

But there are some interesting items to watch on the Congress agenda. For example, debate on “institutional restructuring of the State Council,” China’s day-to-day working government and a vote on changing the election law to adjust the level of representation for rural Chinese.

Currently, each rural delegate of the Chinese congress represents 4 rural residents. The aim of the reform is to increase representation for Chinese rural citizens. Also there will be discussion of a Congressional delegation for migrant workers.

And in another show of support to the vast floating population of migrant workers in China, by some estimates perhaps 200 million people, Wen Jiabao announced mandated paid vacations for migrants.

It is easy for foreign observers, particularly American media, to dismiss the National Peoples’ Congress as a rubber stamp farce. But as I’ve pointed out before, you ignore the work of the NPC at your peril.

The Congress affirms the direction China is going and gives law to Beijing’s policies. Each year thousands of petitions, white papers, and forums are presented by ordinary Chinese (an ancient tradition, by the way, that predates any Chinese republic) and in this great airing of gripes and views are clues to the aspirations and desires of the Chinese people.

The NPC will adjourn March 19. I’ll have a report on this year’s session in next week's episode of The Sinomania! Show video broadcast.

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