China’s ‘Two Sessions’ Begins, Revealing Country’s Policy Aims and Anxieties

China’s ‘Two Sessions’ kicked off on March 4, giving observers a glimpse into the machinations of internal Chinese politics and the country’s objectives for the year ahead.

The 8.5-day event, wrapping March 13, sees both the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) hold their annual meetings. The NPC is a Chinese Communist Party-dominated’ parliament,’ while the CPPCC is largely an advisory body.  

CPC priorities, according to Li

In his annual government ‘work report,’ delivered to the NPC on March 5, China’s outgoing premier Li Keqiang said that the country will aim for “around five per cent” as its economic growth target in 2023. In 2022, China saw its GDP grow by three per cent, missing the official target of around 5.5 per cent.

In his address, Li emphasized reforming state-owned enterprises, providing incentives to private firms, and addressing financial risks in local governments and the real estate sector as priorities for 2023. Li has reached his term limit as premier, and it is anticipated that 63-year-old Li Qiang, a Xi Jinping loyalist and former party secretary of Shanghai, will be tapped for the post towards the end of the Two Sessions. Xi, already confirmed in October 2022 as general secretary of the CCP, is also widely expected to be reappointed as Chinese president on Friday.

Military spending hike

Earlier this week, China announced that it would increase its military spending by 7.2 per cent in 2023, hitting around US$225 billion for the year. The U.S.’s defence budget was around US$800 billion in 2022, dwarfing China’s anticipated spending.

Xi underscored this commitment on Wednesday, calling on China to boost its military prowess through “technological innovation and better co-ordination” of the defence industry with the broader economy, according to Bloomberg.