China starts annual ‘two sessions’ amid huge challenges
UMUT ERGUNSÜThe National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body, started its annual session yesterday. The National People’s Congress (NPC), which is the national legislature of China, is going to kick off its annual session tomorrow.
The CPPCC is more inclusive than the NPC since its delegates come from all walks of life and political backgrounds, including non-Communists. The CPPCC is a platform to offer suggestions on public policy, but unlike the laws passed by the NPC, those suggestions are not binding for the Communist Party. The NPC and CPPCC “two sessions” give an opportunity to state officials to review past policies and announce future plans to the public.
China is faced with huge challenges such as economic slowdown, social inequality, pollution, corruption and so forth. To overcome those challenges, such topics are likely to be on the agenda during the two sessions.
The ‘13th Five-Year Plan’
The 13th Five-Year Plan, which is a road map for China’s economic and social development from 2016 to 2020, highlights the ideas of innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and sharing. This year is the first year of the 13th Five Year Plan, so it tops the agenda.
How to implement important concepts like innovation, environmental protection and opening up? How to ensure balanced, stable and quality economic growth at medium to high speed? How to make significant progress on state governance modernization? These are just some of the hard questions that the Chinese leadership is trying to find answers to.
Poverty alleviation is also a recurrent theme. It is expected that the targets, enforcers, and policies of the poverty alleviation program will be further clarified during the “two sessions.”
According to the Chinese leadership, advancing supply-side reform is also very important in adapting to the “new normal.” President Xi Jinping has stressed that supply-side reform is where the emphasis of the 13th Five-Year Plan’s development strategy lies. By implementing this reform, the government hopes to reduce chronic overcapacity and boost high value-added industries. Everybody is curious to see the details of the supply-side reform since it will give a clearer direction as to where the Chinese economy is heading.
‘One Belt, One Road’
The “One Belt, One Road” initiative is not only an “integral part” of China’s new round of reforms and opening up but has also become an indivisible part of the nation’s foreign policy. According to Chinese sources, more than 60 countries have declared that they wish to be a part of this supranational initiative. The details of the “One Belt, One Road” are expected to be discussed during the two sessions.
For the development of charitable causes, the NPC has also drafted a charity law twice. The Chinese public wants to see whether or not important amendments will be made and how they will work. The draft may also include general changes and reforms about China’s legal system which have come into effect in recent years.
Elsewhere, since China’s reforms in the judicial system are scheduled for completion by the end of 2017, the reports by the Chinese high courts will show the direction of the changes in question.
China has a serious pollution problem ranging from soil contamination to air pollution to water pollution. According to Wanqing Chen of the National Cancer Center in Beijing, cancer is the leading cause of death in China. There were 4.3 million new cancer cases and more than 2.8 million cancer deaths in the country in 2015, with lung cancer being the most common cancer. As such, the government is under pressure to tackle this problem by tightening regulations and closing down factories that heavily pollute the environment. The Chinese public expects to hear some more concrete measures in terms of environment protection after the “two sessions.”
Xi’s anti-corrupting campaign has led to the purge of thousands of party officials – but it’s not over yet, as Xi stressed the importance of a “green political ecosystem” in his New Year’s message. The “two sessions” will offer more insight on how to reach this ambitious goal of having a “green ecosystem” in Chinese politics.
The press conference at the end of the “two sessions” will be closely watched since it is a rare opportunity for the domestic and international press to ask unscripted questions to the top leaders. The answers to those questions will be of the utmost importance since China is faced with huge aforementioned challenges.