March 13, 2014 12:00 am JST

Not exactly easy street

No one ever said running a country of more than 1 billion people is easy. Yet President Xi Jinping and the rest of China's brass are facing some particularly vexing challenges.

     How do you keep a once-booming economy chugging along at a sustainable clip? How do you deal with the filthy air that comes as a byproduct of growth? How do you keep a vast, often murky financial sector stable? And how do you create enough jobs for millions of graduates emerging from universities? A failure to answer these and other questions could deepen already smoldering public resentment.

     Chinese leaders seemed aware of the stakes as they convened in Beijing on March 5-13 for the National People's Congress. Premier Li Keqiang announced China would maintain a growth target of around 7.5%, the same as last year, despite expectations of a downshift. The more the economy grows, the more jobs will be created.

     But while the growth target suggests the government will keep its foot on the economic pedal, other signs suggest it intends to let market forces work on their own. The latest: The country's central bank chief said interest rates will soon be fully liberalized.

     All this raises more questions. Will Xi resort to populism and half-baked reforms? Or will he approach the nation's problems head-on and start finding those answers?