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Advisory body of China's legislature opens

BEIJING — The 2,238 delegates of the conference that advises China's legislature convened Monday with promises to boost the number of entrepreneurs in their ranks to stay relevant in a fast-changing economy.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, whose delegates hail from the country's farthest reaches, has no actual power. But its purpose is twofold — advising the National People's Congress, or legislature, which opens its annual meeting later this week; and giving the Beijing leadership a glimpse into opinions from the provinces.

The conference, China's biggest noncommunist advisory body, met Monday afternoon in Beijing's Great Hall of the People as a military band played the song, "There is No New China without the Communist Party." The meeting was called to order by Jia Qinglin, a member of the party's Politburo Standing Committee.

"The CPPCC faces a higher requirement from a new century, a new situation, a new mission," the official Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said in a front-page editorial Monday.

The full National People's Congress is the country's lawmaking body, although its actions are all preapproved by the Communist Party.

The CPPCC is an umbrella group for government-controlled religious, labor and other groups. It has taken on significance as communist leaders try to stay in touch with a thriving business class and fast-changing society — as well as the jobless and poor that the ruling party's new leaders have promised to help.

"We'll be building on the experiences of the past generation of delegates to continue pushing for our goals," said Shan Danian, a delegate from the central province of Hubei. "We're preparing lots of ideas for the government on ways to keep pushing along economic development."

A spokesman said the advisory body would boost the number of entrepreneurs within its ranks after it convenes, but could not give exact figures.

"Private business entrepreneurs are one of the new social strata in China," spokesman Zhang Guoxiang said Sunday. "Their status and roles have to be reflected."

He said the body's delegates already have submitted 360 reform proposals on topics ranging from government finances to protection of private property.