Alleviating poverty and curbing pollution will be two of the key goals of China's top political advisory body this year, part of efforts to help build a "moderately prosperous society in all respects".
Mr Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said yesterday that these were the advisory body's main tasks and that it would "strengthen key sectors and weak areas" to achieve results.
He was delivering the CPPCC's annual work report to more than 2,000 members gathered in the Great Hall of the People.
"Considering the new historic juncture in China's development... we will contribute our well-thought advice and real efforts towards realising the first centenary goal," said Mr Yu, referring to a goal set by President Xi Jinping to eradicate poverty and build a moderately prosperous society by 2020.
As of October last year, some 30 million Chinese still lived in poverty, which means that their annual per capita income was less than 2,300 yuan (S$478).
Mr Yu pointed out that in the past five years, CPPCC members have conducted studies on the ground in 17 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including some of the remotest areas, to learn more about the poor and the problems they face.
CPPCC spokesman Wang Guoqing said at a press conference last Friday that China has lifted 66 million people out of poverty in the past five years.
He told of how two CPPCC members visited a villager in eastern Gansu province in his "yaodong", or cave home, to talk to him and find out whether poverty alleviation measures were working.
"They didn't have an entourage, and they didn't drive into the village; they just (walked) in like this," Mr Wang said, adding that such visits helped CPPCC members learn intimately about the troubles and worries of the poor.
On the environment, Mr Yu said yesterday that the CPPCC has adopted new methods of oversight.
He said that, for instance, its members made both scheduled and surprise visits to the Tengger desert, where industrial firms were dumping unprocessed waste.
Environmental protection is a key focus of the Chinese government, and is expected to be discussed at length during this year's National People's Congress (NPC) session. A clean environment is a crucial part of Mr Xi's pledge to build a "beautiful China".
One of the constitutional amendments that the NPC is expected to debate when it convenes tomorrow has to do with expanding the role of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, to include ecological advancement.