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China Congress Preview - 2003-03-05

The people in this remote Chinese village of Tanshan, in Ningxia province, must travel long distances every day to obtain what they consider their most precious commodity, water. More than half a million people in this province alone lack access to water.

This villager says she would be very happy if the government would dig wells in her town.

China’s fast population growth and severe pollution have made water increasingly scarce. It is one of the major issues to be discussed by thousands of Chinese delegates in China’s Annual National People's Congress opening this week in Beijing.

Another major issue for the delegates will be the China’s ever-increasing unemployment rate. Millions of workers have lost their jobs due to shutdowns of state industries as China opens its markets and tries to make industry more competitive. China must also find solutions to the millions of migrant workers who leave their rural areas for the cities in search of jobs.

Despite these setbacks, many experts say China has become an "economic powerhouse" with one of the fastest growing market economies in the world and where many Chinese are getting greater spending power and a higher standard of living. James Mcgregor is a Chinese analyst.

"If you compare China to the U.S., China's got a combination of the roaring twenties, the fast economic growth, it's got the 1950s and the fast infrastructure growth, and the people are the first members of their family to have a college education, to have a car, to have an apartment, to travel. This world is transforming."

Successors to President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji will also be installed during China’s legislature.