Top-Down: Wen’s NPC Report, and the Daily State of Affairs

Chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s annual report to China’s rubberstamp national parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is the most important one given by a politician in China, according to the BBC‘s Michael Bristow:

It is broadly divided into two sections: a review of the previous year’s events and plans for the coming year.
According to [Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) of the National University of Singapore], work on the speech begins several months before it is delivered.
Central government ministries, think-tanks and regional leaders all have an input into what goes into the report, traditionally delivered on the opening day of China’s annual session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament.

Wen’s speech of Saturday led the Wall Street Journal‘s (WSJ) blog to make comparisons with former chief state councillor Zhu Rongji‘s work reports, and did only find minor differences:

For all its relative candor, Mr. Wen’s speech doesn’t go much further in assigning blame — or proposing solutions. He makes pro-forma statements about upholding the rule of law, at a time when authorities have launched a new crackdown on activist lawyers. He talks about the need to “strengthen the work related to the handling of petitioners’ letters and visits,” even as authorities try to smother this traditional form of political protest, sometimes with violence. Mr. Zhu went so far as to mention human rights in his speech: Mr. Wen didn’t. Mr. Zhu spoke of elections: Mr. Wen ignored the subject.

Patrick Chovanec, an associate professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing, points out a disturbing counterpoint to Wen’s speech, which had stressed the government’s commitment to be more open and responsive to the concerns and grievances of its citizens, particularly those who travel to Beijing to submit official petitions complaining of abuses or misconduct by local officials. The counterpoint:

The very same day, just a few blocks from where Premier Wen was speaking, a reporter from McClatchy news service interviewed some of the people standing in line outside the Petition Office.  One had his farm taken away by local officials.  Another had his welfare payments cut off after he voted for the wrong candidate in a local election.

It reportedly became a pretty messy scene, but, writes Chovanec, it may not necessarily need to be referred to as an “incident”, since it’s more a daily state of affairs.

China’s leadership would “effectively solve problems that cause great resentment among the masses”, the Telegraph quoted from Wen’s speech on Saturday.*)

The petitioners the McClatchy news service reporter interviewed, also on Saturday, will probably never make it to the ears of their leader. That’s, after all, why they committed the unpatriotic sin of relating their grievances to foreign reporters. Patrick Chovanec again, rendering the McClatchy story:

The reporter and translator eventually got away, but not before seeing the first man in plainclothes approach a witness to the scene, a woman holding several shopping bags, and shoving her around as he yelled “Are you not Chinese? Why are you following them?”

The foreign press, however, may have a chance of following up. Besides Wen Jiabao’s speech at the beginning of the annual plenary NPC session, there will be a press conference at its end. And if Wen has nothing more substantial to say there either, the festive venue may still prove to be another good Chinese-language lesson. Wen traditionally speaks very slowly at the annual press conferences (there is only one such press conference a year), it’s clear Mandarin, and usually available as a collection of videos on YouTube, and in writing.


*) Wen reportedly pointed out that a series of issues (连串议题) such as increasing income disparities (收入悬殊) and corruption (贪腐) had created great grievances (很大民怨) in China. It seems that other officials, or Wen himself, too, had referred to grievances prior to his NPC speech, too, but in lighter ways, such as that “in some places”, there had been “grievances”.

Why China is more like the Middle East…, CFR Blog, March 3, 2011
China’s new Five-Year Plan, BBC News, March 3, 2011
You name the Problem, the CCP solves it, February 15, 2011

Related Tag
民生 »

4 Responses to “Top-Down: Wen’s NPC Report, and the Daily State of Affairs”

  1. Solid summary/analysis; it’s much appreciated, thanks JR.


  2. It seems to be one of those years where media outside China seem to provide more information about an official speech, than Xinhua. Until Sunday, when I wrote this post, I had only found indirect-speech summaries of Wen’s speech on Xinhua’s webpages. Anyway – looking forward to H. E.’s press conference…



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