China's annual parliamentary session, which concluded here on Friday, has featured more attention to people's livelihood and showed novel signs of democracy, according to legislators.
Being the fourth largest economy in the world, China has attracted global interests at its "two sessions", or the once-a- year full conferences of the National People's Congress (NPC), the parliament, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top advisory body.
The six-part government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening of the NPC session paid much attention to people's livelihood. "It is obvious that the report is mainly about people's livelihood," said NPC deputy Wang Jing.
Housing, education, health care, social security and other issues were hot topics during the 14-day two sessions. Among the motions and proposals submitted by lawmakers and advisors, those on people's livelihood accounted for a major proportion.
Press conferences held on the sidelines of the two sessions also involved people's livelihood. Ma Kai, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission, and a number of high-ranking officials and CPPCC National Committee members talked about health care reform, employment, social security and challenges of a growing aging population.
China's top legislator Wu Bangguo said the NPC would intensify its legislation focusing on social affairs this year.
"While continuing work to improve economic legislation, we must also concentrate on strengthening legislation related to social programs to provide a solid legal foundation for building a harmonious socialist society," Wu said.
"China is amid a transitional period with fast-growing economy and many social problems. Now the focus on issues relating to people's lives indicates that China has put all its strength in resolving problems accumulated, and moves on the track of scientific and harmonious development," said NPC deputy Yang Xinren.
"If there is an overall theme...it must be the challenge of making the economy benefit the 1.3 billion Chinese," said an AFP report on March 11.
The two sessions this year lasted longer than those last year. "It was aimed at more time for deputies and advisors to discuss the draft property law and the draft enterprise income tax law," Yang said.
The draft property law with an unprecedented seven times of reading was hailed as "a model of democratic and scientific legislation." During the draft's formulation in the past 13 years, the NPC Standing Committee received more than 10,000 suggestions after the draft was publicized.
At the two sessions, lawmakers and advisors were eager to voice opinions on a variety of issues, such as raising income for farmers, preparing for 2008 Olympics, and protecting animal rights.
Lawmaker Gao Zhiguo was happy to see that two pieces of his advice were accepted in the revision of the government work report.
Disputes were not rare at the two sessions. Advisor Wu Jinglian, who is also a noted economist, was often questioned after he had said that a price hike is necessary during the spring peak travel season.
However, Wu insisted on his opinion, saying "as a political advisor I am not afraid of being scolded, or I would rather resign. "
When Wu Yi, China's only female vice premier in the cabinet, joined lawmakers from Zhejiang Province in a panel discussion on March 7, the lawmakers didn't expect an apology from the "iron lady", who successfully steered China's negotiations into the World Trade Organization.
"People are dissatisfied, and I feel guilty for that. I should apologize to you," said silver-haired Wu for failing to check soaring medical expenses, pledging to the lawmakers that the government would make utmost efforts to tackle current problems.
She was followed by Education Ministry Zhou Ji, who apologized on March 9 for the insufficient work of the ministry to provide an equal educational system.
The two sessions also made breakthroughs in transparency. It was the first time that foreign journalists were allowed to contract NPC deputies directly and attend some meetings of provincial delegations.
The hotels in which NPC deputies lived and the telephone numbers of liaison persons were also made public.