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China's Congress Convenes

Delegates attend the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3.
China's annual session of parliament, the National People's Congress, has opened in Beijing.

Addressing the opening session, Premier Wen Jiabao said the country will target economic growth of 8 percent this year.

China has avoided the worst of the global economic slump with the economy growing 8.7 percent last year, largely as a result of a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) infrastructure program.

Wen announced increases of 8.8 percent on social spending and 12.8 percent on rural outlays to narrow the widening wealth gaps.

Wen also said China will maintain a "basically stable" yuan exchange rate this year.

China's currency controls have strained relations with the United States and other trading partners who complain the yuan is kept undervalued.

The 3,000 delegates of the National People's Congress, a largely ceremonial parliament, will meet for ten days during which time it will approve the country's budget for 2010.

On the eve of the opening session, China announced its military budget would rise 7.5 percent in 2010.

Some foreign analysts were surprised by the figure after more than two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit rises in China's defense budget.

compiled from agency reports