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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Gives Farewell Report to Parliament

On March 5, 2013, China’s retiring premier Wen Jiabao read out a carefully scripted government work report to a sea of reporters and legislators in Beijing's Great Hall of the People during the country's annual session of the parliament, marking his final televised address to the nation before stepping down.

The lengthy government work report lifted the curtain on the 2013 China's National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s highest legislative body whose members meet in Beijing every year in early March to deliberate on public policies.

Wen Jiabao and Chinese president Hu Jintao will retire from office at the end the NPC meeting to hand over power to Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, respectively appointed as the next President and Premier of China.

Wen's nearly 100-minute, 28-page report turned out to be too long for some people. In a photo posted on one Chinese news portal, a man was caught yawning and several others beside him falling asleep.

But for most, his address was a farewell to his 10-year stewardship and part of the effort for the outgoing administration to put the finishing touches on the country’s once-in-a-decade power transition. The premier highlighted China’s achievements over the past five years, including weathering a global financial meltdown, increasing the country's GDP, and launching a navigation satellite.

However, Wen also warned of problems that have undermined Chinese society, chief among them being economic downward pressure, pollution, corruption, and food safety.

A blend of paean to the party and self-criticism, the work report is emblematic of China’s strong top-down politics — the spirit of the report will be studied and appreciated, but hardly challenged by delegates. Largely a rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress will see major decisions determined behind closed-doors by influential power brokers.

One netizen from Beijing wrote sarcastically on popular Chinese microblogging site the day the Congress opened:

Wen read a carefully scripted government work report to a sea of reporters and legislators at the 2013 China's National People’s Congress.

Wen read a carefully scripted government work report at the 2013 China's National People’s Congress. Photo by Owen.

石桥-CRI:评价任何报告,记住八字真言:求真务实,鼓舞人心!放之四海而皆准,随时错不了。

To assess any reports, you have to remember a eight-word mantra: truthful and pragmatic, encouraging and inspiring! This can be applied everywhere, and anytime.

Twitter user Sansumao (@yancaiwm) lamented:

@俗猫:@向松祚:政府工作报告:成绩和功劳讲了50分钟(从9:05到9:55)。不足和问题讲了3分钟(从9:55到9:58)。确实是一个伟大的好报告!

@yancaiwm: Government work report: Talk of achievements and contributions lasted 50 minutes ( from 9:05-9:55). Talk of shortcomings and problems lasted three minutes (from 9:55-9:58). It was truly a great report!

Editor-in-chief of the daily tabloid Global Times Hu Xijin wrote to his three million followers on Weibo  in defense of the government:

@胡锡进:很多人抱怨政府说的很好,做的却是另一套。根本原因是这部分人的期待与中国改善的实际能力存在差距。这是很大的问题。舆论的要求是对的,希望中国向发达国家看齐这错了吗?没错。但中国只能一步一步来。客观说,中国已是这个世界上改善最快的国家,但对人民来说,没有 最快,只有更快。纠结着往前走吧。

Many complain that the government promises one thing, but ends up doing something different. The fundamental reason is that there is a gap between expectations of these people and capacity of China to improve the situation. This is a huge issue, the demands originated from public opinion are right, is it wrong for China to look to the developing countries? No. But China can only take one step at a time. It is fair to say that China is a country that has witnessed the fastest improvements in the world, but for the people, they are expecting faster. We should move ahead painstakingly.

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