China’s National People’s Congress – its 3,000 member parliament – kicked off its annual meeting yesterday with the tenth and last report by outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao.
Rubber stamp it may be, the meeting still gives the rest of the world some good insights into what’s happening in China as the meetings of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee, which sign off on the laws and appointments made by the NPC, remain closed to both Chinese citizens, ordinary Communist Party members (now about 80 million) and of course the outside world.
The 2013 meeting is the one where not only Li Keqiang will be appointed to replace Wen but Xi Jinping will complete his triumphant rise to the top of the world’s most populated nation, adding President to his existing titles of Communist Party General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
In his “work report” Wen summarized the achievements of his government and handed out some advice as what should be the priorities of the new government. Moving right along, Li Keqiang is the first member of the ruling Communist Party’s elite Politburo Standing Committee to have a law degree and one who has the rare qualification, for a very senior Chinese official, of being fluent in English. We’ll see and hear from Premier Li later in the week when he holds the press conference at the end of the NPC.
As well as Wen’s swan song China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission and the Finance Ministry delivered annual reports. In amongst them was mixed news for Australia.
The bad news was in the new and continued restrictions on the housing market which has become a constant theme of the government since they opened the stimulus coffers to avoid being swept up in the global recession and got inflation and a housing bubble for their troubles. Popping the bubble sent the price of iron ore plummeting but it has recently bounced back to levels nearing last year’s all time highs, so it was waiting for some sign to fall again.
And then there’s offshore investment, it has drifted downwards year on year for the past three months but expect that to change. Many important decisions in China over the past 12 months were put off as the government dealt first with the Bo Xilai scandal – his trial remains unfinished business – and then with the leadership changeover.
The good news is the NDRC signs off on all Chinese investments overseas and they’re keen to see more. The commission estimates Chinese investment will increase by 15 per cent this year by adopting policy that will “…support and guide all types of enterprises to conduct investment cooperation abroad…. and improve relevant rules, and regulations, providing Chinese investors more information about specific industries and the target nations and regions, perfecting relevant guidelines…. ”
In Australia thermal coal remains the top item on the mining shopping list and agriculture also remains very much in the sights of the Chinese. Those two particular sectors have hot political implications in Australia and we can expect to hear a lot more on the subject during the election marathon.
Our thanks to Wall Street Journal who have outdone themselves again this year and scanned all the reports mentioned into searchable PDFs.