China is preparing for its annual session of Parliament at a time of great economic uncertainty.
The economy will be at the forefront of discussions at this year's National People's Congress.
China's leaders are expected to use the opportunity to reassure delegates that the country's $900 billion stimulus package is going to work.
This year's session of the NPC is to be shortened to nine days instead of the typical two weeks to save money.
"Money is to be saved," a source said while referring to the global economic downturn, which has hit China's export industries hard.
The session of the nearly parallel-running People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body, is also to be shortened to nine days.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
China National People's Congress will consider landmark legislation that would make social benefits universal when it meets on Thursday.
Landmark social security legislation will be considered that would make health care, unemployment and retirement benefits universal. If implemented, it would mark a major change in the nation's social welfare system.
China's annual political season kicked off with a confidence- boosting prediction that its economy is 'very likely' to recover in the first half of this year.
Central bank vice-governor Su Ning told reporters before the opening of the meeting of the country's top advisory body that the Chinese government is 'very confident' of a rebound.
His comments are the most optimistic yet in a series of recent upbeat statements from top Chinese leaders on the economy - a topic which will hog the agenda during China's biggest political meetings in the next fortnight.
The Straits Times
China will no longer wine and dine visiting heads of state at sumptuous banquets, cutting back the fare to just one soup, three dishes and no liquor, a senior official said yesterday.
The scaled-down menu comes as China implements government savings and encourages thriftiness in the face of the global financial crisis, said Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for China's parliament.
"When our president... and prime minister invite foreign heads of state, during the state banquet the menu will not exceed one soup and three dishes," Li said.
"No Chinese liquor will be served," he said.