Beijing and its Great Hall of the People, in front of Tiananmen Square, will be the scene of the biggest political event of the first half of the year in China: the so-called ‘two sessions’. Spring weather welcomes thousands of delegates who for nearly two weeks they will discuss reforms and refine government policies. In addition, the heads of the country’s main institutions will be elected, something that happens every five years.
The event occurs four and a half months after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, in which President Xi Jinping was re-elected for the second time as Secretary General of the political group that leads the Asian giant, making him the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
The conclaves take place in a different context than a year ago and 2018, when the government leadership was renewed. In the world there are active conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine and China undergoing an economic recovery after the easing of measures due to covid-19.
On the latter, the change has been notorious. For example, for journalists, only a one-night quarantine is required to attend scheduled events in the Great Hall of the People over the next week, unlike the nearly ten-day health ‘bubble’ set last year for the Congress of the Communist Party.
But why are these meetings of international importance and how to understand them? TIME explains the keys.
What are the ‘two sessions’?
It is so called because the plenary sessions of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress of China (ANP or NPC) take place at the same time.
The first begins a day earlier, on March 4. The second, on March 5. The event occurs every year at the beginning of the third month and every five years the organisms are renewed.
What is the CPPCC?
It is the highest political advisory body of the Chinese government. It is made up of about 2,000 members of the Communist Party and other parties. There are representatives from 34 groups, including entrepreneurs, government and military officials, farmers, workers, members of different religions and independents, and people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
The average age is 56 years. It has a permanent committee that meets every two months and another ten specialized committees on topics such as politics, the economy, international relations, among others.
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What is the National People’s Assembly?
It is the highest organ of Chinese state power and the country’s legislative body. It meets in plenary once a year and has the possibility of making changes to the Constitution. In addition, it approves policies that have been proposed by the members, under the frameworks established by the Communist Party of China.
Another choice of their main functions is every five years to the president and vice president, to the prime minister of the Council of State —nominated by the president—, the members of the main state institutions, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, the auditor general, the president of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General.
Also, it is in charge of discussing and deciding on administrative, political and economic matters of national interest. Assembly number 14, which is the one that begins this year, is made up of 2,977 delegates —25 percent are women— and each ethnic group has at least one representation. It should be noted that it is also renewed every five years.
How long are the ‘two sessions’?
Although there is no set time, the usual thing is that the ‘two sessions’ in Beijing take place over at least two weeks. In 2018, they lasted 16 days, the longest time yet. Due to the pandemic, in 2021 and 2022, it was done in a week.
For this year, the duration is eight days: it is expected to end on March 13.
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What are the topics that will be covered this year?
On the revealed agenda, there are six topics of interest for this year’s ‘two sessions’: economy, governance, technological innovation, ‘green’ development and ecological conservation, common prosperity and diplomacy. It contrasts with those that were most relevant two years ago, in 2021, for example, when social security, rural revitalization, and anti-corruption became relevant.
Why is the economy the most worrying issue?
The official media and analysts suggest that the biggest challenge is economic recovery. The growth projection for various experts quoted in the local press is 5 percent. Youth unemployment, inflation and sustainability will also be reviewed.
In addition, on the agenda revealed at a press conference on Saturday March 4 by the ANP spokesman, Wang Chao, is the review of the increase in security and defense spending.
Why does the CPPCC start a day early?
Because before the National People’s Assembly makes a decision, it must have consulted with the CPPCC. In that order of ideas, they first discuss state affairs and then give their opinion to the legislative body.
(You can read: China reopens its borders and returns to a life without sanitary bubbles due to covid)
Are ‘two sessions’ the same as Senate and House, or upper and lower houses of other countries?
No. The CPPCC is a consultative body that does not have the power to create laws or amend the Constitution, something that the National People’s Assembly can do. It is a unique political system that stems from local, citizen and provincial congresses, and is based on a model of “multi-party cooperation”, as analysts explain it, “under the leadership of the Communist Party of China”.
What will happen to Xi Jinping?
President Xi Jinping would be re-elected for the second time by the National People’s Congress. That is, a third presidential term would begin. This is expected after being re-elected for an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China, the country’s leading party, and of which the majority of the delegates of the National People’s Assembly are members.
Will there be changes among senior officials?
Yeah. Analysts say that Li Qiang, who was introduced as the second most powerful and important member of the standing committee of the Communist Party of China Political Bureau in October last year, will be appointed premier. He would replace Li Keqiang, who held the position for ten years.
In addition, the new foreign minister, Qin Gang, will be introduced to the local and international press on March 7. The announcement of the other leaders is expected.
(Keep Reading: Xi Jinping Secures Third Term As Communist Party General Secretary)
Why are the ‘two sessions’ important?
This year’s ‘two sessions’ show the roadmap for the next twelve months and the next five years, above all because it will be announced who will make up the organs of state power for this next period.
It will also allow how the State will work, if there will be new changes to the constitution, how power will be shared among the institutions and what will be the position of the Asian giant in terms of continuing to consolidate itself as a world economic power and regarding issues such as the implementation of the Initiative of Global Security, proposed by President Xi Jinping, and the concept of ‘pacification’ in the world.
DAVID ALEJANDRO LOPEZ BERMUDEZ
In networks: @lopez03david