Chinese legislature to meet today

Published March 5, 2003

BEIJING, March 4: China’s 2,983-member National People’s Congress (NPC), one of the world’s largest legislatures, made final preparations on Tuesday for a generational change in the top political leadership amid tight security.

The NPC, nominally China’s top political body but actually equipped with few real powers, will use the meeting, which starts Wednesday, to formalise changes at the top that have been under way since November.

“As far as the top leadership is concerned, we expect no surprises,” said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong.

Sixty-year-old Hu Jintao, who was made secretary general of the Communist Party at the more crucial party congress late last year, is set to emerge when the session ends on March 18 with the state presidency as well.

Despite the momentous changes at home, the threat of war in Iraq is likely to feature highly when Premier Zhu Rongji delivers his annual, and last, work report at the session’s start Wednesday.

“China stands for the political settlement of the Iraqi issue within the framework of the United Nations as long as there is the slightest hope we should work for a political resolution and try our utmost to avoid war,” Zhu will say, sources said.

He will also call on Iraq to “fully implement the relevant United Nations resolutions in a complete and resolute manner.”

The NPC, comprising a new group of faces taking over from the previous batch of deputies elected in 1998, will also formally approve policy for the coming years.

In particular, it will be asked to look at legislation aimed at pushing China closer to a market economy.

Among these will be a property rights law and a state-owned assets law to address the perennial problem of the country’s moribund state enterprises.

Other draft laws reflecting China’s departure from its Communist past include a venture capital investment law and a corporate bankruptcy law.

“We’ve been busy through the last five years,” management professor Li Yining, an NPC deputy, said. “And for the next NPC, all I can say is its law-making agenda will probably be heavier.”

Even so, the NPC is likely to only play a marginal role as China seeks to push its giant economy into the 21st century.—AFP

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