This year's National People's Congress offered a chance to look at the eventful first year of leadership by the so-called 'fourth generation' of Communist leaders, led by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Despite continued growth, overcoming SARS and sending its first man into space, China must deal with a new set of challenges in 2004.
China adopted a total of 14 amendments to its constitution during the second session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC). The amendments consisted of clauses protecting private property on a level equal to public property and defending human rights. While private property will be protected, the government will still hold the power to repossess private land, provided it pays compensation.
Former president Jiang Zemin's theory of the ?Three Represents? was also added to the document. This is the fourth time the constitution has been amended since it was ratified in 1982.
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said in a press conference during the NPC that China will never accept visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead, including World War II Class-A war criminals are honored.
Political analysts said that Li's remarks indicated that there would be no visits by Koizumi to Beijing or by Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao to Tokyo in the foreseeable future. China recently told Japan that the Yasukuni visits were the reason for rejecting a Japanese bid for the planned high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai.
Premier Wen Jiabao warned that China's economy was "at a critical juncture" in 2004, singling out issues including banking reform, overinvestment in key industrial sectors, declining grain production and transport and energy bottlenecks. Wen's statements came at the conclusion of the annual plenary session of the 10th National People's Congress, China's legislative body, in Beijing. Wen said China's present challenges were as serious as that of SARS in 2003.
He appeared to be most concerned with banking reform, expressing doubts that the recent US$45 billion bailout of China Construction Bank and Bank of China was a "last-ditch battle" to prepare the banks for an open market.