Nearly 3,000 members of China's top legislature have shown up in Beijing for an annual session to assess the performance of the Central Government and take the historic decision to write the protection of private property into the country's constitution.
In a 10-day session that is scheduled to begin Friday, the NPC delegates will, as usual, hear Premier Wen Jiabao outlining the achievements of his government that will include successes in the fight against SARS, the stunning feat of manned-space trip and an awesome 9.1 percent GDP growth.
They will also hear him presenting a list of problems, such as the rebuilding of the health system, corruption, unemployment, the lightening of the burdens of farmers and the movement of rural surplus labor the government has tackled and will continue to tackle.
While there would be no lack of praises of the new and vigorous government headed by Wen Jiabao, delegates are expected to fire at loopholes that were revealed in the public health system during the SARS crisis last year. There will be considerable voices for solving the problems concerning school-age children of peasant-workers in cities and for easing the heavy burdens on the rural people working the land, who are crucial to the goal of building a well-off society in an all-round manner.
NPC delegates who have arrived in Beijing all say that they have brought many bills to be tabled at the annual session. They particularly care about a balanced development between urban and rural areas and about the enlarging regional disparities.
"Many farmers have pinned high hopes on this year's NPC annual session," said Zhang Xinshi, mayor of the less-developed Suqian City in east China's wealthy Jiangsu Province, who had conducted extensive investigations in preparation for the annual session. "I hope this year's session would pay more attention to the land-use and rural education problems."
But what is most important on the agenda of the NPC annual session is the amendment to the Constitution, which is regarded as of historic significance in the commitment of the government to protecting private property and human rights and governing the country under the guidance of the "Three Represents" approach and in line with the principle of seeking truth and pragmatism.
The proposal to amend the Constitution was advanced by the CPC Central Committee last October and it has since aroused extensive concern across the country.
The draft amendment to the Constitution covers such areas as the protection of private property, human rights and growth of private economy as well as the "Three Represents" theory.
In examining the budget and development plans for this year, the current NPC session is expected to adopt a more scientific approach to development and GDP growth.
A recent trend shows that a new concept has evolved from among NPC deputies with regard to the GDP growth target, which used to be much talked about by officials and experts, and the development fever at the cost of the environment and resources has been cooling down. Voices for re-evaluating the GDP accounting system are expected to run high during the current NPC session.
There are 2,984 delegates to the current NPC, the Chinese version of parliament. They are elected by provincial level people's congresses and represent all quarters and interests. They serve a five-year term.
Parallel with the NPC session will be the annual session of the2,230-member CPPCC national committee, a top advisory body. The more liberal-minded advisory body represents all minor parties and people without party affiliation. It is an essential part of the multipartite consultation system of the country. It has a big role to play in supervising and advising the government.
(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2004)