Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Wen opens China's People's Congress with call to unite

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
updated 7:46 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Wen Jiabao opens annual session of China's parliament
  • The National People's Congress will complete China's leadership transition
  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping will formally assume the title of state president
  • Meeting expected to shed light on China's future direction

Hong Kong (CNN) -- In front of a packed Great Hall of the People, outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivered his last government work report as he opened the National People's Congress.

During the coming days, the country's top officials will discuss national priorities for the years ahead, and formally appoint the president who'll oversee them.

Four months after taking over as General Secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping will replace outgoing president Hu Jintao. Li Keqiang will become premier, replacing Wen Jiabao.

Opening the NPC, Wen urged delegates to "unite as one and work hard to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," according to state-run media Xinhua.

Firm economic targets include annual growth of 7.5% in 2013, along with efforts to keep consumer price inflation at around 3.5%. Nine million new jobs would be created, he said, in order to keep urban unemployment no more than 4.6%.

Corruption concerns Chinese officials
Author: Groundhog Day for China's Xi
Chinese protest near People's Congress

READ: China sets economic goals

Wen touched on what some see as the biggest challenge facing the country: The disparity in wealth and opportunity between city dwellers and migrant workers who have left the countryside in their millions to tap into the economic boom.

"The development gap between urban and rural areas and between regions is large, and so are income disparities between individuals," Wen said, according to Xinhua.

He said the government needs to "promptly formulate specific policies" to build on planned reforms to the income distribution system.

China: Three challenges for new leaders

The need to tackle corruption and to reduce the environmental toll of economic growth also emerged in reports from the congress on state media.

A separate session of the government's top advisory body began on Sunday.

Delegates from around the country have been arriving in Beijing for the meetings, which, while highly choreographed, are expected to shed light on the future direction of China, which many people believe is at a crossroads.

READ: Xi: From 'sent-down youth' to China's top

Many risks and challenges

This winter has seen its worst pollution in living memory, angering a population already jaded by a series of high-profile corruption scandals -- including the downfall of the once high-flying politician Bo Xilai -- that have tainted the reputation of the party.

In a speech published by the People's Daily on Sunday, Xi warned that China faced many risks and challenges, saying that the party's future was at stake.

"All party members, especially leaders should have the sense of urgency that our skills and abilities require constant sharpening and renewing," Xi said in the speech that was given on Friday at the Central Party School that trains officials.

"The goal of 'two 100 years' can only be achieved when we become a party that keeps learning and improving."

The NPC, which takes places at The Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square and ends on March 17, will give Xi the opportunity to lay out his policies, and he is expected to make fighting corruption a priority.

In several speeches since he took control of the Communist Party in November, he has warned that corruption could lead to the collapse of the party and the downfall of the state.

READ: China's new leaders

"The central government stresses the change of working style, we encourage more learning, more thinking and less wasteful dinner parties and pointless formalism and bureaucracy," Xi said on Friday.

Food scandals

Beijing is also planning to create a single agency to deal with food and drug regulation after a string of deadly scandals surrounding food safety, the South China Morning Post reported.

Ordinary Chinese are trying to make their voices heard as the meetings commence and one group airing their grievances is migrant workers.

"We are all Chinese citizens. Why are our kids not treated equally, like those with permanent Beijing residency? We live and work here and pay the taxes as well," one woman told CNN at a protest outside the capital's municipal education commission on Thursday.

She said the children of migrant workers living in Beijing are discriminated against because they cannot take part in college entrance exams that play a key part in determining a child's future.

China's new leaders will also be looking to project strength not just at home but also on the global stage. Beijing has been standing up to its neighbor Japan over a disputed chain of islands and recently landed a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time.

CNN's David McKenzie, Steven Jiang and Shao Tian in Beijing contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT