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New Chinese leadership backs defence spending


The final stage in China's once-in-a-decade leadership change is set to begin today with the opening of the National People's Congress, the biggest annual show of power by the ruling Communist Party.

While the parliament is largely a rubber-stamp affair where the 2,987 delegates approve bills already decided by the leadership weeks ago, it does give an insight into the thinking of China's secretive rulers.

Xi Jinping, who was named head of the Communist Party and the military three months ago, will consolidate his rule when he assumes the title of President at the end of the 10-day session. Details of military spending for the coming year are also due to be released today. China has defended its hefty defence budget increases in recent years, despite triggering fear of Chinese aggression among its neighbours.

"Historically China has had weak national defence and was subject to the hurtful lessons of bullying," Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying said. "Chinese people's historical memories of this problem are deep, so we need a solid national defence."

The agenda is anticipated to include discussion of Mr Xi's campaigns to end graft and rein in the power of state-owned enterprises.

Among the burning social issues that have emerged are forthright calls for an end to the country's re-education-through-labour camps, reform of the one-child policy, and measures to tackle pollution.