Caixin
Mar 02, 2018 07:48 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Caixin Explains: China’s Big ‘Two Meetings’

China’s top lawmakers and political advisers will gather at the Great Hall of the People (pictured) in Beijing for the “Two Sessions,” which will run for 10 days starting from Saturday. Photo: VCG
China’s top lawmakers and political advisers will gather at the Great Hall of the People (pictured) in Beijing for the “Two Sessions,” which will run for 10 days starting from Saturday. Photo: VCG

(Beijing) — Every March, top lawmakers and political advisers gather in Beijing from all over the country to attend the “lianghui,” or “Two Sessions,” where they review the performance of the government over the past year and hear new policies and major economic targets.

The two parts of the lianghui are the plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is the country’s top legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a body that advises the government on a range of issues. The CPPCC session starts on Saturday, and the NPC session begins Monday. The meetings typically last about 10 days.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the big political show.

Why is it important?

Normally, the premier will deliver a report on the government’s work to the approximately 3,000 NPC delegates on the first day of the conclave. The premier’s news conference on the final day is also closely watched because he fields questions from foreign journalists. The report that Premier Li Keqiang delivers will announce China’s targeted gross domestic product growth for the year and other key figures, such as the national defense budget.

This year’s lianghui is important because it is the beginning of another five-year term of the NPC and CPPCC members. For example, more than 2,200 of the 2,980 NPC deputies elected recently are new faces. The lawmakers will also vote for a new term of government during this session of meetings.

Another key topic to watch this year is the NPC vote on changes to China’s constitution, which will have more than 20 proposed revisions, including the establishment of an anti-graft state supervisory commission and the removal of presidential term limits.

What is the National People’s Congress?

Technically, it is the highest organ of state power. Its roughly 3,000 delegates meet once a year to ratify or approve policies, laws, the budget and top government personnel changes. Currently, an NPC Standing Committee of about 160 members runs the legislature and passes laws between the annual meetings.

Has the NPC ever rejected legislation?

It has never voted down a proposed law, which has raised questions as to its function. However, since the legislature held its first meeting in 1954, there have been increasing instances of a lack of consensus. In 1982, three delegates abstained from a vote for the first time. The first “no” vote was cast six year later, when Taiwan delegate Huang Shunxing voted against the chairman nomination of the NPC’s Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee. Then in 1992, only two-thirds of the legislature voted for the Three Gorges Dam project. More recently, hundreds of delegates have voted against or abstained from voting on the work reports given by the head of the top prosecutor’s office and the chief judge of the Supreme People’s Court.

Who can be an NPC deputy?

Delegates are elected to five-year terms mostly by provincial people’s congresses, who themselves are elected by lower-level assemblies. Only delegates at the lowest level — the county level or equivalent — are directly elected by the public. The People’s Liberation Army also picks some members. The NPC has 2,980 members this year, including 742 women and 438 deputies representing China’s 55 ethnic minorities.

Then what does the CPPCC do?

The CPPCC is a collection of advisers that gives party and government bodies suggestions on economic, political, cultural and societal issues. The CPPCC has 2,158 members this year. The membership is more varied than the NPC, and not everyone is a party member. Many CPPCC members are leading figures in fields such as academics, the legal profession and the business world. The body also has some star power, with luminaries like former NBA star Yao Ming and Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan holding posts.

Contact reporter Wu Gang (gangwu@caixin.com)

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