March 05, 2009


The second session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) is underway in Beijing and off to a blunt start with PM Wen Jiabao declaring in opening remarks that China faces "unprecedented difficulties and challenges." To the dismay of some around the world Wen did not announce any specific new stimulus for the Chinese economy straining to maintain growth. In fact, attention is paid to Beijing's budget deficit nearing 1 trillion Yuan, the highest since the earliest days of the People's Republic.

Where is Beijing putting its money? As in the USA, military spending tops the central government budget and will rise this year by nearly 15%. A lot of focus is put as usual on welfare spending and there will be new initiatives for farmers and poor agricultural areas. So far no announcements about land reform - probably the biggest potential development in China and a very important topic to watch.

In an indication of the continuing improvements in relations between Beijing and Taipei PM Wen Jiabao said Beijing was ready to hold talks on cross-straits political and military issues.

NPC sessions usually last just under 2 weeks and are typically dismissed by foreign press as a "rubber stamp" event. But as I point out each year you ignore the work of the NPC at your peril as it reflects the great airing of grievances of Chinese and reveals important clues as to future direction in the country as well as legislating the policy work of the State Council. You can follow news of the NPC at its official website.

An interesting twist at the outset is a new seating arrangment in the Great Hall of the People: front row seating will be rotated by an unknown formula allowing delegates from different regions and interest group blocks to sit near the dais and participate more directly in the work of the Congress...


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