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Price rise and economy top agenda
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Rising inflation will be one of the hottest topics of discussion at the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which begin on March 3 and 5, respectively.

The "two sessions" will discuss other burning issues, too, such as the impact of the US subprime crisis on the Chinese economy, energy conservation and waste reduction, medical and education reforms, and the Beijing Olympic Games, says Zhang Jing'an, information office director under the General Office of the CPPCC National Committee.

"Some CPPCC members think China is entering a period of inflation because the increase in prices has gone beyond structural adjustments," Zhang says.

CPPCC members are elected every five years, and at least two-thirds of them will be new this time, drawing unprecedented attention from home and abroad.

No wonder, more than 2,000 journalists from home and 1,000 from abroad are expected to cover the event. With journalists being able to watch at least one phase of all CPPCC panel discussions, except those of the armed forces, this year's event will be the most open for the media.

The flow of 2,237 CPPCC members from across the country into Beijing has started already. And like previous years, the 12-day event will include two general meetings on the 24 best proposals of members or member groups.

The CPPCC comprises 34 member groups with representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the non-Communist parties, non-Party-affiliated individuals, representatives of people's organizations, ethnic minorities and members from across the social strata.

Unique to China, the multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the CPC is an important component of China's country's political system. The role of CPPCC members is very important because they contribute their ideas and suggestions through relative government departments.

The 10th CPPCC National Committee submitted 23,081 proposals in the past five years, completed 112 investigations on important issues and filed constructive reports with relevant government departments. Many of its proposals and investigative reports were developed into government regulations and policies, benefiting the people at large.

Chairpersons of all eight non-Communist parties will hold a press conference on multi-party cooperation and political consultation by the CPC on March 6. Two more press conferences, on March 8 and 12, will be on social responsibility of entrepreneurs and the Olympic Games.

"Translations at the press conference will be simultaneous, instead of consecutive, to save more time for the press," Zhang says. "Consecutive translations will be provided only if questions are asked in English."

"The 'two sessions' are important gatherings for discussing and implementing sound and rapid economic development policies, and development is the key to dealing with thorny issues such as the recent weather disaster," says Zhang Mingpei, director of agricultural department of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The Scientific Outlook on Development, initiated by CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao in 2003, takes development as its essence, puts people first, and considers comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development as its basic requirement.

Guangxi was one of worst hit regions during the devastation caused by sleet and snow recently. "Our victory over the extreme weather should be mainly attributed to the rapid economic growth in the past 30 years," Zhang says.

Despite the difficulties, it is widely assumed that opportunities offered by development still outweigh the challenges. A report of 17th CPC National Congress says the country would have basically accomplished industrialization, with its overall strength significantly increased and its domestic market ranking as one of the largest in the world by 2020. Also, it would have attained its goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by then.

"China would then be much more capable of dealing with emergencies. Hence, economic development will still be the core issue at the 'two sessions'," Zhang says.

Another important issue to be discussed at the "two session" is the impact of a global economic downturn on China. Though China's GDP grew 11.4 percent last year, some analysts say the growth would be slower this year. But they say a slightly slower growth is not a bad thing, for it will help prevent the economy from overheating. There are others who say the interrelation between the global and the Chinese economies is too complicated to hazard a guess.

But they agree on one point that the "two sessions" should focus on more concrete and detailed measures on the growth mode transformation.

The signs at the recently concluded local people's congresses were encouraging. The Shanghai government submitted a report to the city's people's congress, saying the city will develop its services sector vigorously in the next five years because it lacked resources, even though it had a lot of professionals.

Environmental protection is another big challenge facing the country. The "two sessions" are likely to come up with more feasible measures to realize economic growth and environmental protection, says NPC deputy Peng Zhenqiu.

On Monday, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) issued a regulation, making it mandatory for highly polluting companies to pass environmental inspections while applying for initial public offerings (IPOs) or re-financing. This is seen as a major step toward a "green securities policy".

"But people expect more such policies to be suggested or discussed at the 'two sessions'," Peng says.

(Xinhua News Agency February 29, 2008)

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