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China: NPC Meeting Closes


China's new president is promising to rejuvenate the nation, as he takes power in the country's smoothest leadership transition in more than half a century.

President Hu Jintao presided over the closing of China's National People's Congress Tuesday, by pledging to improve people's lives and forge ahead with economic reforms.

Mr. Hu tells delegates to the legislature that China's new leaders are assuming power at a time when the "burdens of building the country are heavy." He also refers to the growing possibility of war with Iraq, saying that China's new leaders "bear a great responsibility in the rapidly changing international situation."

Mr. Hu says that only socialism can help China. He promises to achieve "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," and says the new leaders will continue the country's modernization and opening to the outside world.

Mr. Hu promised to work toward reunification with Taiwan, by stepping up economic and cultural exchanges. Taiwan broke from mainland control in a civil war in 1949. Mr. Hu also paid homage to former President Jiang Zemin and his theory of the "Three Represents," which invites private entrepreneurs to join the Communist Party.

This session of the National People's Congress wraps up a sweeping leadership transition, with the retirement of Mr. Jiang, former Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, party elder Li Peng and other officials.

Mr. Jiang, however, remains the head of China's military and is expected to continue wielding great influence over the government.

The new generation of leaders has pledged to devote more resources to tackling rural poverty and urban unemployment. On Tuesday, delegates to the congress approved the budget for 2003, which increases spending to create jobs for millions of workers laid off from failing state enterprises. The budget also boosts allowances for the poor.

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