Changing China

Giant on the move

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Runaway success of China’s parliament

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   By Emma Graham-Harrison

   Even US President Barack Obama on his post-election high could only dream of popularity like this. Delegates streaming out of the opening session of China’s Parliament on Thursday morning were pretty much unanimous in praising their leaders’ talent and inspiration.
 
    “The government has very good policies.”
 
    “The Premier’s policies were right on the mark.”
 
    “They laid out all the policies we will need.”
 
    This is just a sampling of the glowing reviews Premier Wen Jiabao got for his annual report to Parliament, which he reads out word-for-exact-printed word for more than two hours.
 
    Delegates are supposed to follow on their own copies, although many of them appear to
nod off — maybe into dreams of the “harmonious society,” which the Chinese Communist Party is trying to build.
 
    The only delegate who told Reuters he wasn’t entranced didn’t blame the premier either.
 
    “Actually my Chinese isn’t so good so I find it a bit boring,” said a Tibetan “living Buddha”, sipping tea outside the main hall in monks’ robes that photographers swarmed to snap.
 
    But many of the thousands of “people’s representatives” crammed into the cavernous Great Hall of the People shied away from media like sensitive locals on the streets of Tibet.
 
    “Just call me Mr Yang. Thank you, thank you,” said one trim, middle-aged delegate who wouldn’t say who he was representing either. I had to listen back to my tape to check whether I’d
missed some dangerously seditious thoughts. But he was just quoting back from the report.
 
    “The most important thing for overcoming the crisis is stimumlating domestic demand, increasing investment,” he mumbled.

    The next delegate I approached picked up his pace, and when I picked up mine to match, he broke into a shuffling semi-jog across the marble floor to escape my questioning.
 
    I left my runaway to look for a delegate willing to do anything other than gush about the speech’s succcess, but I finally went back to the office empty-handed.

Photo caption: Delegates to the National People’s Congress reading text, following along as Premier Wen Jiabao reads speech at the opening session of the annual meeting of parliament. REUTERS/Christina Hu

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