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:
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:
@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：
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.