At the annual National People's Congress meeting now under way in Beijing, former president Jiang Zemin is giving up his last official title. The move cements the leadership roles of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao . It also heightens the agenda-setting role of this NPC session - the first at which Mr Hu has held clear authority over all major party, state and military bodies. Tightly scripted political theatre though it is, the event will shed light on the leadership's priorities for the coming year. The emphasis on balancing development, relieving rural poverty and rooting out official corruption are in keeping with the brand of populism promoted by the Hu-Wen team since it began taking the reigns of power in 2002. The difference now is that many key provincial posts have, in recent months, been taken up by allies who may be able to help advance the agenda. The priorities are not misplaced, as a widening gap between rich and poor is shaping up to be one of the greatest sources of social discontent. The campaign to streamline the bureaucracy and tackle corruption does not, unfortunately, appear to include easing the restrictions on expression that have been imposed recently. Nor does it open the way for any dilution of the Communist Party's leadership role. One of the biggest unknowns of the annual meeting is the text of the anti-secession law, which will be unveiled tomorrow. Aimed largely at Taiwan, the bill will lay the legal groundwork for mainland action if Taiwan declares independence. The law's wording - and the reception to it on the other side of the strait - could hasten the process of rapprochement now under way or set the stage for military confrontation. The other mystery is how the change of Hong Kong's leadership will be accomplished. The way both of these issues are played out will offer clues about Mr Hu's approach in the coming years. If there are any major policy shifts in the offing, they are likely to be found in the tone of relations with Taipei and Hong Kong. The constraint of Mr Jiang's influence on the army is less of a factor now that he has resigned his leadership of the state Central Military Commission. But in the case of Hong Kong policy, that influence may still be manifested in the prominence of Jiang protege and vice-president Zeng Qinghong , who has responsibility for Hong Kong affairs. On the mainland front, the broad themes were laid out by Mr Wen in the annual work report submitted at Saturday's NPC opening. Agricultural taxes will be cut more quickly than planned. Subsidies for education in rural areas will be increased. Environmental protection, reforestation, water conservation and continued investment in the relatively poorer western provinces are also priorities. Controls on bank lending and property development introduced early last year are set to stay for the time being. The annual growth target is 8 per cent, up from the usual 7 per cent. But growth at all costs is no longer acceptable. Administrative controls have strengthened the hand of local bureaucrats, while in some cases hampering the ability of the private sector to compete with state-owned enterprises. Recently announced measures aimed at putting private businesses on a more equal footing may help, especially if Mr Hu's and Mr Wen's allies are now more influential. But the challenge of keeping a lid on booming urban economies while stimulating growth elsewhere remains. The effort to stem corruption and spread the wealth, meanwhile, could have a limited impact if limits on media and public discussion of these issues are not eased at the same time. The Hu-Wen team's mainland agenda is fairly clear as the NPC meeting continues this week. What remains to be seen is how they will handle relations with Taiwan and Hong Kong.