The Shanghai People's Congress opens its annual session today and one of its main tasks will be to confirm Chen Liangyu as mayor. The municipal congress, much like the National People's Congress, has little real power, but the session, which ends on Tuesday, will serve as a forum for local government and Communist Party officials to deliver reports on development plans for the city. The congress is likely to hear the city Government's plan to achieve more than 10 per cent economic growth this year. It reached 10.2 per cent last year. Officials may also flesh out the city's infrastructure spending plans for the year. Shanghai plans to spend heavily on major projects such as highways and an expansion of the light rail system. China is using infrastructure spending to spur growth as a global economic slump continues. The confirmation of Mr Chen is largely a formality, but the appointment has considerable significance for the mainland's commercial centre. Mr Chen, the former executive vice-mayor, was named acting mayor in December in a surprise move that sent his popular predecessor, Xu Kuangdi, to a relatively obscure academic post in Beijing. Mr Chen, 55, lacks the charisma and charm of Mr Xu but is an experienced administrator well aware of the economic and development issues confronting the mainland's commercial centre. Mr Chen also has a key advantage over Mr Xu as he is likely to have smoother relations with the real power-holder in Shanghai - Communist Party boss Huang Ju - and is an alternate member of the party's Central Committee. Since his appointment, Mr Chen has told visitors he hopes to provide continuity and stability, foreign diplomats say. The native of Ningbo in nearby Zhejiang province became vice-mayor in 1996 when Mr Xu was given the job as mayor. He worked his way through local government and party, serving as head of the retired cadres bureau and eventually as chief of the city's important Huangpu district. Mr Chen is a graduate of the army's engineering institute and served in the PLA in 1968-70. He joined the Communist Party 10 years later. He is remembered by businessmen in Shanghai for the role he and former mayor Xu played in reassuring foreign investors after demonstrations erupted over Nato's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. Both men met major foreign businessmen to tell them that despite the political tensions, Shanghai's Government wanted them to stay. While he usually speaks Chinese in formal meetings with foreigners, he also speaks English and studied public administration in Britain in 1992.