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China sets date for 12th National People's Congress

BEIJING -- China has fixed March 5, 2013, as the date it will convene a key legislative session, state media reported Friday, with new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping set to become president during the two-week meeting.

The date for the start of the first annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) was approved at an NPC Standing Committee meeting Friday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The announcement comes after the Communist Party in November chose current Vice President Xi to take over the reins of the ruling party from current President Hu Jintao.

That was the first step in China's highly choreographed once-a-decade leadership transition that sees the party change leaders first, with state positions, including president, premier and other key posts, filled at the NPC several months later.

Xi is set to be formally selected as president during the NPC session, while Li Keqiang, another top party official, is slated to become premier, replacing Wen Jiabao, the position's current occupant.

Xinhua said the legislative session would last about two weeks and would also deal with other important matters including approving a draft plan on national economic and social development for next year.

The announcement of the start of the next NPC comes after November's party congress, which had been expected some time in October, was delayed amid an internal party scandal involving disgraced politician Bo Xilai.

Bo, the former party boss in the central megacity of Chongqing, was once seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons but was brought down by murder allegations against his wife that came to light after his police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate.

Gu Kailai, Bo's wife, was later given a suspended death sentence — a judgment commonly commuted to a life sentence — for fatally poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo has been formally expelled from the party and is in custody awaiting trial for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The months-long controversy exposed deep divisions in the party's top leadership ahead of the sensitive power transition, as Bo had influential patrons and a following among left-leaning members.

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