Delayed gathering of the ‘Two Sessions’ . . .
The annual gathering of two of China’s major political institutions – colloquially known as the ‘Two Sessions’ – started this past Thursday, a more than a two-month delay from its original date due to COVID-19. The ‘Two Sessions’ refer to the annual gathering of two institutions, the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature which consists of 2957 deputies, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body consisting of 2200 members. This annual political event is important for a few reasons: the Premier delivers a Work Report outlining the government’s policy priorities; new laws are approved at the NPC, and; both NPC deputies and CPPCC members deliberate policy options and provide suggestions to the government.
Lack of clarity on economic policy . . .
On Friday, Premier Li Keqiang delivered a Work Report which highlighted some of the important policy priorities for the Chinese government. For example, Premier Li announced that the government will create 9 million new urban jobs, and keep the unemployment rate at 5.5 per cent. This Work Report, like many central government documents in China, contains minimalist language on how these goals are to be attained. There is currently very general explanation on how to achieve these goals amid the current recession. Beijing veered away from its tradition of setting a target for GDP growth, as such expectations could backfire and undermine the government’s popular legitimacy.
A challenging balancing act . . .
During the ‘Two Sessions’ NPC deputies and CPPCC members are able to deliberate policy options, point out policy failures, and suggest corrective measures. The degree of openness in the current ‘Two Sessions’ is something observers should watch for. Currently, the regime is in a defensive mode as it has faced internal criticism for its late response to COVID-19. Under these conditions, the regime is more likely to limit the scope for discussion at the ‘Two Sessions’ in an attempt to minimize expressions of dissatisfaction. However, the regime also needs feedback from NPC deputies and CPPCC delegates in order to obtain advice on how to deal with public health failures and a slowing economy, making this a challenging balancing act.
- China Global Television Network: Full text: Premier Li's speech at the third session of the 13th NPC
- New York Times: China, faced with challenges, mounts show of strength at Party Congress
- South China Morning Post: China GDP: Beijing abandons 2020 economic growth target, Premier Li Keqiang confirms at NPC