China addresses military spending in tightly-choreographed event ahead of National People's Congress

China's leaders take questions at annual pres... 04:01

In China, the National People's Congress begins nine days of meetings on Wednesday. The yearly session comes as China faces pollution and heightened tensions with its neighbors.

In Beijing, CBS News' Seth Doane got a rare and complicated opportunity to question the leadership.

Red flags were flying against smog-free, bright blue skies Tuesday as police around Tiananmen Square made their presence clear. The roughly 3,000 delegates of the National People's Congress are set to begin meeting Wednesday. The Congress is seen as mostly ceremonial, but delegates do officially approve policies on the ruling Communist Party's agenda: from corruption, to the economy, to the fight against pollution.

CBS News was let in -- amid tight security -- for an annual press conference where foreign media still turns heads. Roughly 3,000 journalists are registered to cover the sessions.

It's quite rare to get to ask questions at this level of the Chinese government, Doane reported. The opportunity only comes a couple of times a year. But in China, press conferences are different. Questions had to be drafted by journalists ahead of time, and then approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry selected CBS News' question to be among about a dozen answered at a choreographed presser.

Doane said at the presser, "I've been told to keep my hand raised -- but I've just learned that I'll be the eighth person to be called on."

Indeed, he was the eighth called. It was the first time in years CBS News was selected. Doane asked, "It has been about 10 years since China announced the concept of a peaceful rise, but China's increased military spending seems anything but peaceful."

The question raised the issue of tensions over disputed islands, and China's muscular military stance.

Doane continued, "Do China's neighbors -- and indeed, the world -- have reason to fear China's boosted military presence in the region, and is this a result of increased U.S. focus in the region?"

Fu Ying, the Congress spokeswoman, said, "We think it takes power to maintain and preserve peace. The U.S. has publicly stressed, multiple times, it does not have a strategy to contain China, but we need to see the words and the action."

Along with discussing defense spending, China's state media is also reporting that China's one-child policy will be discussed, as well as the slowing economy.