March 5 (UPI) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang kicked off the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing with a 100-minute speech -- a reading of the Communist Party's newest work report. As Li read, attendees turned the pages of the report in unison.
"We owe all the achievements made over the last year to the sound leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core," Li said.
Sunday's gathering of 3,000 legislators inside the Great Hall of the People was the first of two meetings. The annual conference is called "lianghui," or "two sessions."
The policy blueprint presented at the gathering included a variety of economic goals, including a slower rate of growth. The new target is 6.5 percent, down from last year's goal of 6.5 to 7 percent. China's economic growth in 2016 was its slowest in 26 years.
"The projected target for this year's growth is realistic," Li said.
The work report also included plans to curb "zombie enterprises," entities like coal and steel plants which have been producing more than the market demands. Li said the party would continue to fight smog and pollution.
In addition to economic prescriptions, the speech included numerous references to the party and its leader.
President Xi was granted "core leader" status by the party in October, an honor not given to China's previous president, Hu Jintao.
A shakeup of Communist Party leadership is expected this fall as five of the party's top seven leaders are set to step down. Many believe Xi will use the opportunity to bend party rules and extend his presidential tenure. Xi is scheduled to resign his post as party leader in 2022.