Development -- Main Theme of New Millennium Gathering

Accelerating development should claim top priority, said Laham, a NPC deputy from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "With a developed economy, it would become very easy to solve all other problems, such as employment and stability."

"We are concerned about national defense," said an army deputy, Gu Shanqing. "But we are concerned more about economic development, as economic development provides the powerful backing to national defense."

"Economic development would enable the country to realize the national reunification earlier," said Rita Fan from Hong Kong.

Development -- this is the main theme of the on-going fourth session of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC), which opened here Monday. It is this theme that makes the session more attractive at the start of the new century.

Among the deputies attending the session are rich entrepreneurs as well as farmers from impoverished regions with an annual net income of a few dozens U.S. dollars. This reflects the tremendous changes in China over the past two decades and it has also posed problems in policy options for the new century.

Watching the deputies walking into the Great Hall of the People for the opening session, Gao Zenghui, a farmer tourist from east China's Fujian province, said he hopes to "earn more money in the coming years."

Gao's views was exactly reflected in the draft plan submitted by Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to the NPC session for deliberation, which makes improvement in the people's standard of living the primary goal of China's development.

According to the draft plan, China, whose gross national product (GDP) ranks seventh in the world, aims to increase its GDP to about 12 trillion yuan by 2005 with faster progress in science and technology and education, which will lay a good foundation for the GDP to double by 2010 over that of 2005.

For the first time in years, economists, entrepreneurs and grass-roots deputies, instead of film and singing stars, have become the focal point of correspondents and cameramen.

Qu Geping, known as China's pioneering figure in environmental protection who later served as director of the Administration of Environment Protection, was surrounded by correspondents on the steps leading to the great hall.

"Sustainable development is an issue of the greatest concern to me," said Qu."We will continue to promote birth control, a rational use of resources and make more efforts to improve ecological environment according to the five-year plan."

China will readjust itself to the changing world characterized by economic globalization and its anticipated entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) through agriculture restructuring and faster development of the information industry and optimizing industrial structure for sustainable development, according to the plan.

Huang Jinhua, a deputy and an expert of nuclear energy, said rapid scientific and technological progress will lay a good foundation for long-term development.

He explained that, as outlined in the plan, planned breakthroughs in genome science, information science, nanometric technology and other high-tech fields will provide key support for the country's economic development.

The policy measures indicate that the Chinese economy is coming to a new turning point after 22 years of rapid development.

According to the country's three-stage development strategy, annual per capita GDP will rise to about 10,000 U.S. dollars by 2030, compared with 800 U.S. dollars for 2000.

The plan, however, also lists a number of challenges facing China: an irrational industrial structure, backwardness in science and technology and education, shortage of water and oil resources, and ecological deterioration in some parts of the country, population and unemployment pressure and corruption.

But experience in the past several years has shown the future is bright for China.

The past five years have seen China tide over devastating flooding, droughts, the Asian economic crisis and high inflation and deflation in China. The country, with an average annual economic growth rate of more than eight percent, has remained to be the main destination of foreign investment among developing countries.

Ding Jiemin, a deputy from Jiangsu province and Peter Becker, first counselor of Germany who attended the opening on invitation, are quite upbeat about China in the coming five years.

Becker said he believes China could surmount the difficulties in its future development.

(People’s Daily 03/06/2001)