The First Session of the 10th Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) was held in Beijing between March 5 to March 18, 2003. This meeting marked the completion of the largest power transfer in a decade in China. With little surprise, all candidates nominated by the Chinese Communist Party in last year’s Party Congress got elected. Hu Jintao succeeded Jiang Zemin to become China’s new Presdient, Wu Bangguo succeeded Li Peng to become the new Chairman of the National People’s Congress, and Wen Jiabao succeeded Zhu Rongji as the new Premier. Compared to their predecessors, this new group of leaders is much younger, better educated, and have worked their way up from grassroot level. Of the 28 ministers, 15 are new, with the rest coming from the previous cabinet. Seventy percent of the newly elected members of Standing Committee of the NPC are new. The only surprise is the reelection of Jiang Zeming as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Apparently, Jiang has decided last year to follow Deng Xiaoping’s footsteps, and hold on to this power for a few years before going into full retirement.
The government has pledged to continue the work on reforms and development began two decades ago. Hu pledged to the delegates that he would “faithfully perform the powers and functions endowed by the Constitution, scrupulously discharge his duties, work hard and industriously and serve the country and the people with utmost sincerity.” Wen Jiabao in a press conference held after the conclusion of the meeting laid out the main objectives of the new government, namely to “achieve one goal”, “implement two key policies”, “solve three major economic problems” and “promote reforms in four major aspects”. One goal refers to continued maintenance of a sustainable and comparatively rapid development of the national economy and improvement of people’s living standards. Two key policies include the strategic economic restructuring and opening up to the outside world. The three problems that need to be resolved include unemployment and the social security system, increasing fiscal revenue and cuting public spending, and correcting and standardizing the economic order. The four reforms include the reform of the rural economy, the reform of state-owned enterprises, the reform of financial system and the reform of governmental agencies. It appears that the issues of equality and social justice have been given highest priorities by the new administration. The new leaders promised to provide eight million new jobs this year alone to combat the mounting unemployment crisis in China. New Taxes will be leveled on people with higher incomes. Rural reform will also be crucial to China’s drive to achieve a more affluent society that benefit all people.
Political reform was not a priority at the meeting. Instead, more institutional reforms are endorsed. Compared with previous institutional reforms, this time the emphasis will be on the changing roles and functions of the government. Under the government restructuring plan, the State Council will form a new commission for the management of state property, to be responsible for the reform and reorganization of state-owned enterprises, and a new commission to regulate the banking industry. A new Food and Drug Administration on the basis of the State Drug Administration will be established to reinforce supervision over the safety of food, health products and cosmetics. A new Ministry of Commence will be created to replace the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and the State Economic and Trade Commission.