Beijing, March 5: China's old guard led by President Hu Jintao today bowed out of power after highlighting the communist giant's rise as a world power during their decade long rule, paving the way for new leader Xi Jinping to assume charge of the world's second largest economy.
Premier Wen Jiabao, who along with Hu steered China for the last 10 years, made his final bow before the 3,000 strong National People's Congress (NPC) after presenting a lengthy work report listing out achievements of his era, especially the nation's emergence as the world's second largest economy over taking Japan in 2011.
The NPC began its two-week long session here today during which the new leaders will take over reins from the outgoing leadership headed by Hu in what was regarded as a smooth power transfer considering speculation about the factionalism in the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Wen's 29-page report mainly focussed on achievements like creating vast infrastructure with dozens of airports, thousands of kilometres of roads and high speed trains besides all round development of the world's most populous country.
But at the same time, the 70-year-old leader, who last year refuted allegations of his family accumulating $ 2.7 billion assets, called for unwavering efforts to combat corruption, excessive concentration power and strengthening of political integrity. He also spoke about problems China faced, prominent of which is the "unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development".
Watched by 70-year-old Hu, Xi and other top leaders of the Party, Wen spoke of growing disparities between rich and poor and development gap between regions, potential risks in the financial sector and conflict between industrial development and environmental protection.
The NPC is set to formally elect 59-year-old Xi as President, 57-year-old Li Keqiang as Premier and other top leaders, names of which have already been finalised by the ruling CPC in its Plenum. The NPC will also approve a government institutional reform plan.
Defence budget three times India's spend
China on Tuesday hiked its defence budget by a whopping 10.7 per cent to $115.7 billion, well above India's current defence spending of $37.4 billion, underlining Beijing's military ambitions amid territorial disputes with neighbours.
The double-digit rise in defence budget for 2013-14 was announced by Wen Jiabao at the NPC.
As per the budgetary papers placed at the NPC, a sum of 720.168 billion Yuan was allocated for defence, which at the current exchange rate amounted to $115.7 billion, to make Chinese armed forces more mechanised and information-based.
China spent $106.4 billion on national defence in 2012, an increase of 11.5 per cent than the previous year, making it one of the world's top defence spenders.
Outgoing Premier Wen also presented a lengthy work report on the decade old achievements of his government.
The double-digit hike comes at a time when China is rapidly modernising its armed forces in the backdrop of deepening standoff with Japan over the disputed islands as well as differences with several South East Asian Countries over the South China Sea.
China has already launched its first aircraft carrier last year as well as several versions of new fighter jets including a stealth fighter bracing to deal with big US military push into Asia Pacific.
Many international analysts say China's defence budget is far higher than it actually announces though Beijing asserts that it is the real amount.
Playing down the steady increase in defence budget, NPC spokesperson Fu Ying on Monday said that China's defensive military policies played a "core role" in maintaining peace and stability in Asia.
"China's peaceful foreign policies and its defensive military policies are conducive to security and peace of Asia," Fu said.