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Peoples' Congress feels the heat -

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Reporter: Stephen McDonell

ELEANOR HALL: The world economic crisis has put China's leaders under pressure that they're not
used to and that's on display at the annual National People's Congress which opens today.

Across the country industry is slowing and unemployment is rising and the investment from Hong Kong
and Taiwan that once flowed so freely is drying up.

From Beijing, China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Over the last decade this has been the day when China's leaders would stride into
the Great Hall of the People, confident in their country's economy and extremely confident in the
strength of their grip on political power.

Now neither of those things has been lost but this year's National People's Congress is
significantly different to those in recent times. The pressure is on. China's leaders must explain
how they're going to get this country out of an economic downturn which by their own reckoning
threatens mass unemployment and social instability.

Hong Kong University's Professor David Zweig says no one will feel this pressure more at the
congress than Premier Wen Jiabao.

DAVID ZWEIG: He's got to do two things. He's got to say to the people: Look, we understand the
economic situation is difficult. We understand there's hard times out there. Here's what we're
doing to solve that and you guys need to support us.

And he's got to give off a real strong sense of confidence. He feels if people are confident
they'll spend money. If they spend, the economy will continue to develop.

And I think that this NPC rather than being some kind of standard rubber stamp or some kind of
political performance or something, this is really a time when he's got to be on the money and
really speak to the people and speak to the officials and really rally the nation.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: But apart from getting messages out to the public, Professor Zweig says Wen
Jiabao will have his hands full with nearly 3,000 delegates.

DAVID ZWEIG: They're going to get an earful, you know they're going to get an earful from a lot of
places who are saying we're in trouble.

You've got provinces like Zhejiang province, wealthy provinces that depend enormously on exports.
Exports have shrunk by 50 per cent so they're going to hear all this kind of stuff and they need to
be able to say to these officials - don't panic; we'll manage this. We'll see this through to a
better day in about a year or two.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Hong Kong University's Professor David Zweig ending that report from Stephen
McDonell.