( dpa ) - China on Wednesday opened the annual 14-day National People's Congress (NPC), the nominal parliament of the ruling Communist Party, with a focus on economic measures to control inflation and spread the benefits of development to rural areas.
President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other party leaders were among some 3,000 NPC delegates who heard the opening speeches.
Wen delivered a government work report on 2007 and outlined key economic policies for this year.
China said it estimated gross domestic product grew by 11.4 per cent last year, the highest rate since 1994, with the World Bank recently forecasting growth of 9.6 per cent for this year.
The NPC delegates will also consider a plan for restructuring the State Council, or cabinet, to cut back the number of ministries from 28 to 21.
The restructuring will create several larger bodies and elevate the state environmental protection agency to ministry level to help promote the shift to a "greener" economy.
The delegates will also be asked to approve the party's list of candidates to fill government posts that will be vacated under age and tenure-based rules, and to re-elect Hu, Wen and other top leaders to their government posts.
NPC spokesman Jiang Enzhu said Tuesday that China planned to increase its military budget for this year by another 17.6 per cent, following similar large defence hikes in recent years.
Jiang defended the increase as "moderate" and necessary for military modernization, rejecting a US military report on Monday that said China's military build-up could fuel instability in Asia.
Some 2,000 members of an advisory body, hundreds of journalists and observers, and a military brass band also attended the opening of the NPC.