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China: Taiwan, Reorganization Dominate NPC Agenda - 2003-03-04

China's new leadership plans no changes in its dealing with Taiwan, but will work to slash Beijing's bureaucracy and boost living standards across the country. Those issues will dominate the agenda as National People's Congress convenes for its annual session in Beijing.

The spokesman for the National People's Congress, Jiang Enzhu, says China's Taiwan policy will maintain "continuity and stability." On Tuesday, he repeated Beijing's long-standing policy of seeking to reassert control over the island that China regards as a renegade province.

Taiwan split politically from China amid civil war, a half a century ago, and Beijing says it wants the island back, peacefully if possible, but by force if necessary.

While that key policy remains unchanged, the National People's Congress over the next two weeks is expected to approve a sweeping leadership change. The new leaders were nominated late last year by the Communist Party. Vice President Hu Jintao is expected take Jiang Zemin's post as president, Vice Premier Wen Jiabao replaces Prime Minister Zhu Rongji.

China's legislature is dismissed by some foreign experts as a rubber stamp that simply endorses decisions made by the Communist Party.

But spokesman Jiang Enzhu told reporters Tuesday the NPC is trying to build a supervisory role over China's national budget, legal system, and government. He says better oversight will cut corruption and waste. He says the NPC will examine another in a series of government reorganizations designed to slash the bloated bureaucracy.

It is also expected to improve the laws protecting private property, and eliminate rules that conflict with World Trade Organization policies or stifle economic growth.

Mr. Jiang says lawmakers are "deeply concerned" about the plight of the poor and will seek ways to raise living standards for "all the people of China."

Economic reforms have created a growing gap between poor and rich, and thrown millions of people out of work as inefficient state-owned companies collapse.