Beijing Hosts Annual ‘Two Sessions’

With the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) opening its session on March 3, and the National People’s Congress (NPC) opening its respective session two days later, Beijing has begun playing host to the annual period known as the ‘Two Sessions,’ when the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s key policy planks are discussed and approved. With past sessions seeing large policy shifts, and amid ongoing pressure from the trade war with the United States, this month’s ongoing sessions are receiving a high degree of attention, both domestic and international.

The sessions’ content is wide-ranging – the two bodies meet for less than two weeks, discussing policies for a country of 1.4 billion people – but two areas of focus have been the CPC’s suite of economic and environmental policies. While China’s perennial problem of pollution control still presents challenges to the region, on the economic front commentators are anticipating a raft of new measures to address lagging GDP growth and the ongoing, extraordinary attempt at structural transformation to a consumption economy.

Observers, however, frequently criticize the sessions as rubber-stamps for pre-determined diktats from the CPC. They further argue that the nouveau riche and other ‘celebrity’ participants that now populate these sessions hardly represent the meritocracy that the CPC heralds. The sessions’ announcements also raise criticisms: this year, they include vows to continue mass detentions in Xinjiang and announcements further restricting Tibet to rights groups and overseas activists.

For Canada, the main implications from the sessions are likely to be economic. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s annual report to the NPC promised to “promote China-U.S. trade negotiations,” but gave no indication of an end to the trade war. Beijing also announced a slew of measures to stabilize growth, including adopting fiscal policies to increase spending. The sessions also hinted that the CPC intends to continue with its manufacturing policy to upgrade China’s industry to dominate global high-tech supply chains, despite it being a target of the U.S. trade war: notably, instead of using the phrase ‘Made in China 2025,’ Li’s report referred to what amounts to the same policy using the new phrase ‘smart plus.'