World News Brief, Wednesday March 6

National People's Congress meeting begins in China; Malaysia launches attack in Borneo; Syrian rebels take over Raqqa; Italy considers technocrat government; and more

Top of the Agenda: China Kicks Off National People's Congress Meeting

Premier Wen Jiabao gave his outgoing address (AP) at China's annual National People's Congress meeting, the rubber-stamped parliamentary session where major policies and key government officials are announced. Wen pledged to repair the environment and boost public services under its new leadership, and notably pared the nation's economic growth target to 7.5 percent (Bloomberg) from an 8 percent goal in place since 2005--a sign that leaders could be aiming to cut reliance on exports and capital spending in favor of consumption. China also reached a tentative deal with the United States on a new set of sanctions against North Korea in response to its third nuclear test last month. The resolution (WSJ), which will enforce some existing sanctions and include new ones, will be introduced at a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday.



"So for China's Communist Party, this leadership change is not so much a time of celebration as of introspection and anxiety. The party is aware that in the eyes of many Chinese, its authority is eroding. And while the party leaders know the problems they face, they know too that there are few easy answers," writes a Damian Grammaticas for the BBC.

"Though it calls itself a legislature and votes on motions, the NPC has never rejected anything put before it. Notwithstanding the important work the NPC does outside of the plenary sessions, the annual meeting remains heavily stage-managed and is far from shaking free of its well-deserved label as a rubber-stamp," writes the Economist.

"The NPC will confirm a new leadership that has already made promises of a more sustainable, less damaged China. The outgoing government started off with such promises too, and public disappointment over its failure to make good on them is at dangerously high levels. If this cycle of disillusionment is not to deepen, the NPC must publicly and robustly become the environment's champion, insisting on its constitutional powers and offering the public a convincing political response to their frustrations," writes Isabel Hilton for the South China Morning Post.



Malaysia Launches Attack in Borneo

Malaysia launched an offensive (NYT) in Borneo on Tuesday in a bid to end a month-long siege by armed Filipinos seeking to reclaim part of the island. Air strikes and a ground assault killed an undetermined number of Filipino gunmen but caused no Malaysian casualties.



Syrian rebels capture Raqqa

Italy considers technocrat government

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