Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says he is confident China can achieve its eight percent economic growth target for 2009, despite serious difficulties brought on by the global economic crisis. His comments came Thursday, in a lengthy work report on the first day of the annual session of China's legislature, the National People's Congress.
The issue at the top of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's annual work report to the National People's Congress is China's lagging economy.
In a speech that lasted more than two hours, the Chinese leader said the government has targeted the country's 2009 economic growth at eight percent.
Wen says it is essential for China to maintain a certain economic growth rate, to expand employment for urban and rural residents, increase people's incomes and ensure social stability.
The global financial crisis means reduced American and European demand for Chinese exports, which has translated into factory closures and millions of laid-off workers.
Wen sought to portray the Chinese government as actively responding to the economic woes. He did not unveil any new programs, but gave further details of two programs that had previously been announced - a $586 billion stimulus package, largely for infrastructure projects, and a $125 billion program to reform the health care system.
The Chinese premier says social stability is a "major concern" for the government, and he describes 2009 as "the most difficult year for China's economic development since the beginning of the century."
The emphasis has been on the possibility of domestic labor unrest. Two other domestic issues Mr. Wen did not raise extensively were Tibet and Xinjiang, where restive minority groups have clashed with Chinese government forces.
China's annual budget includes a nearly 15-percent increase in military spending. One potential flash-point in the region is Taiwan, a separately-governed island Beijing considers to be a renegade province.
China has threatened to use military force to prevent Taiwan from declaring formal independence. But, in more conciliatory comments, Premier Wen says Beijing is ready to hold talks with Taiwan on political and military issues.
Wen says the talks would be aimed at creating conditions for ending what he calls "the state of hostility" and concluding a peace agreement between China and Taiwan.
Nearly 3,000 deputies from around China participate in the deliberations of the National People's Congress. The legislature meets each year to approve decisions made by the Communist Party leadership.