Yesterday's man, Wen Jiabao, gives the world a glimpse of China's tomorrow under incoming President Xi Jinping

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Defence, the environment and economic growth: outgoing premier reveals incoming president's priorities

Beijing

The world is watching Beijing for signs of what the future holds under incoming President Xi Jinping. Today it got a glimpse, as outgoing premier Wen Jiabao delivered his 10th and final address to China’s annual National Congress. In it, Mr Wen – whose decade-long term will end when the congress closes – set out a list of his country’s top priorities, from cutting economic inequalities at home to combating corruption, cleaning up China’s rapidly worsening pollution problem and raising the country’s defence budget at a time when it is involved in several territorial rows with its neighbours.

It also contained a pledge to keep economic growth at 7.5 per cent – a fantasy for many Western governments but almost conservative in a land where between 2001 and 2010 it didn’t dip below 9 per cent.  Even last year – a relative failure in comparison with the Noughties as a result of spluttering demand for Chinese goods in Europe and the US – it was 7.8 per cent.

While the words were delivered by Mr Wen, they are in reality the manifesto of the Chinese Communist Party and of its leader Mr Xi, who will be confirmed as president – replacing Hu Jintao – at some point before the end of the 13-day session. The NPC is the last piece in the elaborate once-a-decade leadership transition that kicked off with a Communist Party congress in November, at which Mr Xi was named as party leader and military head.

“Some people still lead hard lives,” said Mr Wen, referring to the yawning income gap in China that has seen much of the newly minted wealth concentrated among a privileged few in the cities of the coast and the south.  “We must make ensuring and improving people’s well-being the starting point and goal of all the government’s work, give entire priority to it, and strive to strengthen social development.”

Mr Wen, who will be succeed by his top lieutenant, Li Keqiang,  became known as “Grandpa Wen” for his common touch during his 10-year term, although that image was somewhat undermined by a New York Times report last year that alleged his family had accumulated billions of pounds during his rise to power.

The speech, which was delivered to muted applause and watched by an impassive Mr Xi, placed special emphasis on reducing energy consumption, improving conservation and solving the country’s serious air, soil and water pollution problems. Military spending is set to rise this year to 740.6billion yuan (£78.5bn), according to a Ministry of Finance report released today, as China continues to upgrade its fleet of fighter jets, ships and missiles. It has commissioned its first aircraft carrier, and is also working on developing its own stealth technology.

The country’s military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was unchanged last year at 1.3 per cent, considerably lower than the world’s biggest defence spender, the US, which shelled out nearly six times as much on defence in real terms last year. The Communist Party insists this modernisation programme poses no threat, but China’s neighbours, particularly Japan, say China has become more aggressive in how it handles disputes over territory in the resource-rich waters of East and South China seas.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said his country “intends to continue watching China’s defence policy and its military strength closely”, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “It is desirable for China to increase transparency in its defence and military policy, including expenditures.”

As China’s neighbours watched the defence budget, rising social discontent at home and possible instability prompted a third successive annual rise in spending on domestic security.:

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high