In China, no other current affairs will draw more public attention in early March than the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC), the supreme legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top advisory body. Seen as one of the most significant events in China's political life, these two sessions always play a crucial role in shaping some key policies for the country's economic and social development, especially in the year ahead.
The 2009 sessions of the NPC and CPPCC are particularly significant, as they are being held at a time when the country is facing the most devastating domestic and global economic outlook in the new millennium. According to the government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the NPC meeting, the Chinese leadership is keenly aware of the difficulties it is facing. Wen's report noticeably highlighted the dual priorities China needs to accomplish for this year: to maintain an 8-percent economic growth rate and further improve people's livelihoods. A number of targets have also been set in the report to achieve both these objectives, including creating more than 9 million jobs, spending 293 billion yuan ($43.1 billion) on developing the country's inadequate social security system, and giving income tax holidays to both businesses and individuals for up to 500 billion yuan ($73 billion).
For decades, China has fueled its rapid economic growth largely through government-led investments, apart from its booming export sector, whereas domestic consumption has failed to gather enough steam to drive forward the economy. This is not a healthy and sustainable pattern and will make China susceptible to slowdowns and recessions in times of economic difficulties. So, adopting various measures to further lift the living standards of the general public, as enumerated by Wen's report, will not only enable China to fulfill its economic goals for 2009, but will also help rationalize the nation's economic structures and give the economy a more competitive edge in the long run.
While Wen's report has met with broad interest and approval in and outside the conference halls, serious concerns and harsh criticisms can also be heard from NPC deputies and CPPCC members on various social problems, including negligence of public duty and corruption of government officials. Some participants also expressed their doubt or reservations on some government economic targets, or call for more prudent consideration of the long-term impact of some bills or policies under deliberation. It is widely believed that differing views, dissent and criticism at these sessions are now an acceptable part of the process, which helps create a liberal and healthy atmosphere vital to making policies correctly and governing the country efficiently.