China's old guard bows out for Xi and his team

Defence budget hiked to $115.7 billion

China's old guard bows out for Xi and his team

China’s old guard led by President Hu Jintao on Tuesday bowed out of power after highlighting the communist giant’s rise as a world power during their decade long rule, paving the way for new leader Xi Jinping to assume charge of the world’s second largest economy.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who along with Hu steered China for the last 10 years, made his final bow before the 3,000 strong National People’s Congress (NPC) after presenting a lengthy work report listing out achievements of his era, especially the nation’s emergence as the world's second largest economy over taking Japan in 2011.

The NPC began its two-week long session here on Tuesday during which the new leaders will take over reins from the outgoing leadership headed by Hu in what was regarded as a smooth power transfer considering speculation about the factionalism in the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Wen’s 29-page report mainly focussed on achievements like creating vast infrastructure with dozens of airports, thousands of kilometres of roads and high speed trains besides all round development of the world’s most populous country.

But at the same time, the 70-year-old leader, who last year refuted allegations of his family accumulating $2.7 billion assets, called for unwavering efforts to combat corruption, excessive concentration power and strengthening of political integrity. He also spoke about problems China faced, prominent of which is the “unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development”.

Watched by 70-year-old Hu, Xi and other top leaders, Wen spoke of growing disparities between rich and poor and development gap between regions, potential risks in the financial sector and conflict between industrial development and environmental protection.

The NPC is set to formally elect 59-year-old Xi as President, 57-year-old Li Keqiang as Premier and other top leaders, names of which have already been finalised. The NPC will also approve a government institutional reform plan.

Defence plan

Wen also announced the hiked in defence budget by a whopping 10.7 per cent to $115.7 billion, dwarfing India’s current defence spending of $37.4 billion, amid the communist giant’s military ambitions and territorial disputes with neighbours. The interior’s budget was hiked to $122 billion.

Also for the second consecutive year, China’s internal security budget exceeded the defence spending as the Chinese government proposed an 8.7 per cent increase for the internal security budget taking the total to 769.1 billion yuan, ($122 billion).

Justifying the increase in defence budget, Wen said China should accelerate modernisation of national defence to strengthen military capabilities. “We should resolutely uphold China’s sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and ensure peaceful development,” the 70-year-old leader said.

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