No huge portraits of Chairman Mao, or of his successor Chairman Hua. No enormous slogans extolling the late chairman. No thunderous applause to greet China's present leaders when they appear on the rostrum. And, in the balcony, for the first time in 20 years, foreign diplo mats and journalists. This was the scene in the cavernous auditorium of the Great Hall of the People here when the National People's Congress, China's legislature, opened its annual two-week session Aug. 30, reports Monitor correspondent Takashi Oka.
Along with the dramatic personnel changes that are to be announced (the resignation of Prime Minister Hua Guofeng, Deputy Premier Deng Xiaoping, and at least six other deputy premiers, and the elevation of First Deputy Premier Zhao Ziyang to the premiership) there seems to be a genuine desire on the part of the leadership to make the congress less of a rubberstamp body, and more of a forum where genuine discussion takes place. Much of the congress work is done in committees, where delegates not only listen to government officials but also make suggestions themselves. The highlight of the session is expected to come on Sept. 7 when Premier Hua makes an "important speech."