03/16/2016, 18.38
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National People's Congress ends with Li Keqiang’s vague and conciliatory words

by Wang Zhicheng

As expected, the proposed five-year plan is unanimously approved. Reported poverty levels are inaccurate. At the concluding press conference, the PM uses soft tones, hiding problems, about dialogue with Taiwan, respect for Hong Kong, friendship with the United States, and government transparency.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The 4th session of the 12th National People's Congress ended this morning in the Great Hall of the People, in Tiananmen Square. Almost 3,000 delegates voted unanimously for the five-year economic plan amid applause.

The plan includes what Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced in his initial address, namely growth around 6.5 to 7 per cent a year by 2020, cutting high debt, streamlining state-owned enterprises, and reforming financial markets.

China’s legislature also approved a defence budget increase of 7.6 per cent, a targeted unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent, and a boost to the poverty alleviation budget by 20.1 billion yuan (43.4 per cent) with the goal of lifting at least 10 million people out of poverty in 2016.

According to official figures, some 70 million farmers live below the poverty line, with an annual income of less than 2,300 yuan (about US$ 350). However, this figure is based on a base point of one dollar a day. If the World Bank’s standard of US$ 1.25 a day is used, the poor in China become at least 200 million.

In his address at the final press conference, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang gave an optimistic brush to things, using a positive and conciliatory language, but remained very vague when he addressed the 900 or so reporters present.

“As long as we stick to reform and opening up, China’s economy will not see a hard landing,” he said. Indeed, although China’s growth was slowing, he claimed that it still managed to ensure full employment.

Likewise, although the banking system is heavily burdened by bad debts, the prime minister expressed confidence in the capacity of the Chinese to save. At the same time, the central government plans to help heavily indebted local governments pay out pensions, and provide everyone with "new rice bowls" like in Mao’s times.

Li used the same conciliatory tone when he spoke about talks with Taiwan and the relationship with Hong Kong, which is based on the principle of "one country, two systems" and this despite Beijing’s high-handed intervention in the city’s affairs.

Likewise, he stressed cooperation with the United States, as well as Southeast Asian nations, with whom Beijing wants “stable neighbourhood and a peaceful regional and international environment,” despite a row with several of them over the sovereignty of the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

Observers noted that some questions from journalists appeared to be prepared, especially those by reporters for party media. Similarly, no one asked any question about human rights or tensions in Xinjiang or Tibet.

Although at least 49 journalists are behind bars, hundreds of human rights lawyers disbarred or on trial, and calls for a stop to the campaign against crosses and churches, Li beatifically said that he invited the public and the media to monitor the government's work.

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