Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao gave his administration mixed marks when reviewing his work over the past five years yesterday in his last annual government work report. He bowed three times after delivering it.
While most deputies at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing praised the retiring leader, the public, and especially internet users and microbloggers, were more critical, with some ridiculing the premier's self-assessment.
NPC deputy Han Kang, associate dean of the National School of Administration, said: "I feel Premier Wen has done an outstanding job, as he has made such achievements amid a very bad international environment."
Wen frankly acknowledged 11 failures, the most prominent and frequently criticised being a growing wealth gap, the deteriorating environment, an unbalanced economic structure, unsustainable growth and increasingly rampant corruption among officials.
"Social problems have increased markedly, and many problems in the areas of education, employment, social security, medical care, housing, the environment, food and drug safety, workplace safety and public order affect people's vital interests," the report said.
One blogger ridiculed Wen, saying he spent 50 minutes dwelling on his achievements, but less than three minutes on his "inadequacies".
The bulk of the report, which was much thinner than Wen's previous ones, highlighted his achievements in exceeding numerous targets that he set for his administration.
Wen said it had achieved average annual economic growth of 9.3 per cent, with gross domestic product rising from 26.6 trillion yuan in 2008 to 51.9 trillion yuan (HK$64 trillion) last year, taking China into second place globally, behind only the United States.
In the last five-year term, revenue rose from 5.1 trillion yuan to 11.7 trillion yuan a year; the per capita disposable income of urban residents rose by 8.8 per cent and that of rural residents by 9.9 per cent, his report said. Wen also cited breakthroughs in innovation and technology such as the launching of a manned spacecraft, the development of a satellite-based navigation system and supercomputers, the building of the world's longest high-speed railway network, and the commissioning of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
He said the government had created 58.7 million jobs in the past five years and had also scrapped the agriculture tax for the first time in Chinese history and substantially increased government spending on agriculture, resulting in nine years of record harvests.
Wen and President Hu Jintao took office a decade ago and repeatedly pledged to tackle the problems listed by Wen. But many critics said the problems have been getting worse.
One of the most contentious issues is skyrocketing property prices, but Wen said in the report his administration succeeded in "containing excessive rises".
One internet user disagreed, saying: "He came to power when the housing price per square metre was 3,000 yuan and now he leaves when it is 20,000 yuan."