Focus on China’s twin sessions

Sultan M Hali

PEOPLE’S Republic of China (PRC) has a system of democracy, which has evolved and developed in a manner to suit the country’s specific needs. It differs from the western concepts of democracy but is representative of the people and meets its requirement of legislation and governance comprising two main deliberative bodies: The National People’s Congress (NPC) and the People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) often referred to as the Lianghui (Two Assemblies). NPC, the national legislature of PRC, currently including 2,987 members, is the largest parliamentary body in world.
Delegates to the NPC’s Congress are elected for five-year terms via a multi-tiered representative electoral system by the provincial people’s assemblies, who in turn are elected by lower level assemblies, and so on through a series of tiers to the local people’s assemblies which are directly elected by the electorate. The PRC also recognizes 55 minority ethnic groups in China, and there is at least one delegate belonging to each of these groups in the NPC. Under Chinese Constitution, the NPC is structured as a unicameral legislature, with the power to legislate, the power to oversee the operations of the government, and the power to elect the major officers of state. The annual sessions of both conferences are held every spring, usually lasting from 10 to 14 days, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and these annual meetings provide an opportunity for the officers of state to review past policies and present future plans to the nation. The fifth session of the 12th NPC opened on March 5 2017 and is still on. Owing to China’s rise in esteem and its involvement in the world’s economic well being, development and progress, there is intense international focus on the China’s twin sessions.
As per past practice, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang opened the first plenary session by delivering the annual government work report and pledged to continue reforms to attain the economic growth target of about 6.5 percent this year despite challenges ahead. It is heartening that PRC has set a target, which maybe the lowest for China for more than two decades, yet it is realistic, in keeping with economic principles while China remains one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The Chinese Premier reiterated that the target will help steer and steady expectations and make structural adjustments as well as help achieve the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020.
In order to maintain stable growth and ensuring employment as well as raising the quality of life of the people, in 2017, PRC will keep its CPI increase at around 3 percent, and create more than 11 million urban jobs with a registered urban unemployment rate within 4.5 percent. The country will also reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by at least 3.4 percent. A sharp departure is laying greater stress on supply-side structural reform rather than aiming to bolster the GDP although last year, China’s GDP reached 74.4 trillion Yuan (10.8 trillion US dollars), a 6.7-percent growth, outpacing most other economies and contributing more than 30 per cent of global growth.
In 2016, despite challenges, China created 13.14 million urban jobs and increased per capita disposable income by 6.3 percent. About 12.4 million people shook off poverty. Taking into account the challenges ahead of sluggish world economic growth and growing trend of protectionism, China’s sanguine attitude is based on a solid material foundation, abundant human resources, a huge market, and a complete system of industries. The envisaged supply-side structural reform will center on a variety of areas, including streamlining administration, reducing taxes, further expanding market access, and reducing ineffective supply while expanding effective supply. These will improve government efficiency and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship which have positive impacts on the economic sector. In specific terms, China will further reduce steel production capacity by around 50 million metric tons and coal capacity by at least 150 million metric tons this year.
The report presented by the Chinese Premier highlighted cutting excess urban real estate inventory, bringing down the leverage of enterprises, reducing costs for enterprises and strengthening areas of weakness including poverty eradication. Thus China is set to pursue a more proactive and effective fiscal policy. It has set its government fiscal deficit this year at 2.38 trillion Yuan, or 3 percent of its GDP, an increase of 200 billion Yuan over last year. It plans to invest 800 billion Yuan in railway construction and 1.8 trillion Yuan in highway and waterway projects, and begin construction on another 15 major water conservation projects. This year, the government aims to reduce the number of rural residents living in poverty by over 10 million, including 3.4 million to be relocated from inhospitable areas. Central government funding for poverty alleviation will be increased by over 30 percent.
China has vowed to oppose protectionism in its different forms, and will work toward a deeper and higher level of opening up. Thus the spotlight on the Belt and Road Initiative will be maintained by accelerating the building of overland economic corridors and maritime cooperation hubs, and deepening international industrial-capacity cooperation. Another epic consideration is improving the environment for foreign investors, including making service industries, manufacturing, and mining more open to foreign investment, encouraging foreign-invested firms to be listed and issue bonds in China, and allowing them to take part in national science and technology projects.
It is reassuring to observe that China’s defence budget has been elevated by only 7 percent while the emphasis is on diffusing tensions in the South China Sea, endeavouring for peace but continuing to deepen reforms in national defence and the armed forces, strengthening its maritime and air defence as well as border control amid efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and security.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Email: sm_hali@yahoo.com