- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China’s largely powerless legislature closed Friday, with delegates endorsing a hefty stimulus package aimed at keeping the world’s third-largest economy robust amid the global downturn.

The government hopes the plan can help China spend itself out of the economic doldrums _ and achieve an ambitious goal of 8 percent economic growth.

The $4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus plan gives a strong boost to social welfare spending to encourage Chinese, who typically save about 20 percent of their incomes, to spend more.

Nearly 3,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress packed into the Great Hall of the People off Tiananmen Square to vote during the annual session’s final day. Rings of uniformed and plainclothes police sealed off Tiananmen and kept ordinary Chinese and the normal hordes of tourists away.

The congress is generally a tightly scripted affair with few surprises. Delegates approve decisions made behind-closed-doors by the Communist Party leadership.

As expected, an overwhelming majority of delegates voted in favor of the spending plan, with all but 164 of the 2,824 delegates voting “yes.”

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