Last weekend, I talked to my mother about the "two-sessions" — the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the largest congressional meeting in the world with nearly 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I asked her if China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) functions like American legislative body or European parliaments and the CPPCC is an advisory body.
She said yes ... as it is written on the books. The 1982 Constitution of the People's Republic of China nicely says, "All power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are the National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at different levels." It's right there in Chapter 1, Article 2.
But when I asked her about the relationship between Communist Party of China (CPC) and NPC, she said the party was still above the NPC. That's why NPC is said to be "little more than a rubber stamp for party decisions."
Still, the world should pay due attention to the key issues discussed at these sessions, as they are the first one since the ascent of Xi Jinping as the head of CPC onNovember 15, 2012. These sessions tend to be the focus of the party policies and the direction of this new leadership.
1. The Chinese economy:
Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson
On the top of the list of the NPC agenda is economic growth. China targets its growth at 7.5% for this year. To reach this target, China needs strong domestic consumption, as the weak economies in Europe and the U.S. cannot keep up their demand for Chinese products. China faces further challenges in the form of the phenomenon that is so characteristic of most of the capitalist countries in the world; that is, in China the rich get richer and the poor poorer. The former premier Wen Jiabao called it the "divisions between the urban rich and rural poor" and "unbalanced economic growth." The party leaders set the daunting task of "narrowing income inequality and spreading China’s expanding wealth more evenly, as they are aware of the "social strains," tension, and unrest that are likely to occur as the result. Keeping social order has always been high on Chinese leaders' agenda.
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The second issue is the anti-corruption campaign. For example, the Railways Ministry, one of the most corrupt organs of the Chinese government, will be split into two with its regulatory responsibilities (government) going to the Transport Ministry and its operations to an enterprise, decreasing government involvement in the business side. The government will put more efforts in strengthening its food and drug safety agency. Food safety has been a scandalous area in the past few years. The almost omnipresent flagrant power abuse, privileges, and self-enrichment practices by Chinese officials and their families have caused strong public resentment. The newly-chosen leader Xi Jinping seems determined to fight this corruption, but it remains to be seen how serious Xi is in this fight.
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The third one most pressing issue in China is how to deal with the nation's pollution problem. Lately, we have heard a lot about air pollution in Beijing, the "blackest day" or "atrocious air quality" in Beijing. The outgoing premier Wen Jiabao called it "blind expansion," "Unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable development," that has caused many social problems, with pollution being one of them.
To the world as the whole and to the health of the Chinese people, isn't that a wonderful thing that the Chinese leaders realize that a continued economic growth cannot be sustained without controlling pollution of all forms and they are determined to fix environment?
The fact is there are many environmental protection rules and regulations. What has failed is lax enforcement, which has generated much corruption as many companies can buy their way out of abiding these rules. Corruption has got in the way of enforcing environmental protection.
Be it anti-corruption or anti-pollution, what China needs most is an independent judiciary to execute the established laws from the topmost officials to the bottom.