Asia-Pacific

Who writes China leader Wen Jiabao's annual speech?

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao
Image caption Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's speech is approved by the country's senior leaders

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's annual parliamentary work report takes a couple of hours to deliver - but far longer to compile.

Mr Wen was the man speaking the words, but the report is a collection of views and opinions from a far wider range of interests.

Its analysis of the previous year's events and future predictions are the result of months of research, bargaining and re-writing.

The final draft has to be agreed by all the top leaders.

"China is a one-party system, but it's not a one-man system," said Zheng Yongnian, of the National University of Singapore.

"Before you can talk to the public, you have to have consensus among the leadership, because the report does not represent one person's opinion, it represents the leadership's position."

The annual speech is the most important given by a Chinese politician, of similar importance to the State of the Union address given by US presidents.

It is broadly divided into two sections: a review of the previous year's events and plans for the coming year.

According to Mr Zheng, director of his university's East Asia Institute, work on the speech begins several months before it is delivered.

Central government ministries, think-tanks and regional leaders all have an input into what goes into the report, traditionally delivered on the opening day of China's annual session of the National People's Congress, the country's parliament.

NPC delegate Peter Wong, from Hong Kong, saw some of the material for this year's speech a couple of weeks ago.

He then sent a memo to the Chinese premier, through Hong Kong's NPC liaison office, detailing his own suggestions and amendments.

"My input centred on what has not been done and needs to be addressed, particularly tightening the legal system to enhance the rule of law," he told the BBC several weeks ago.

He hoped his recommendations would be included in the final speech.

Mr Wong said the Chinese leadership has this year cast its net wider than ever in the search for opinions on what should be in the report.

Seeking approval

Last month Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, published an article on how Wen Jiabao had invited a group of "ordinary people" to the national leaders' compound in Beijing to hear their views on what should go into the work report.

Among the group was a migrant worker, a doctor and a farmer.

They had a range of suggestions, including more investment in rural water projects, extra support for the elderly and increased protection for migrant workers.

"Listening to public opinion will allow us to know how government policies are carried out at grassroots level and what difficulties people are facing," said the premier, according to Xinhua.

This could be seen as a stunt, orchestrated by a government that does not allow its citizens the ultimate right to influence policy by giving them a vote.

But Chinese officials do at the very least need to show they are sensitive to the needs and opinions of their people - and they are.

The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, organised an online poll to find out what topics people thought should be discussed at the NPC.

Rising prices was one major concern, which is why the government is so concerned about the current high level of inflation.

What the government is ultimately searching for is consensus, and that is what Mr Wen will be hoping to achieve with his 2011 work report.

Last year it was approved by 2,836 out of 2,909 NPC deputies. The premier will be looking for something similar this year.

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