Reporter’s Notebook: Inside the First Press Briefing for the Two Sessions
Pandemic precautions are creating a dramatically different setting this week for journalists covering press briefings in advance of China’s annual sessions of the national legislature and top political advisory bodies.
Many times in years past I’ve sat with hundreds of reporters packed into a press room at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing. But for this year’s first briefing Wednesday, fewer reporters were invited. We were sequestered for the duration, tested for coronavirus in advance and seated at least one meter apart.
The press conference was set in two locations. While Guo Weimin, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and several other officials sat at the old venue, dozens of journalists gathered at a media center miles away, participating via real-time streaming from the main venue powered by the next-generation 5G wireless technology.
These briefings are major events that provide an early preview of the most important gatherings on China’s political calendar. China will convene this year’s sessions of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress Thursday and Friday, nearly two months delayed from the normal schedule because of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
The meetings are unfolding as China has successfully brought the coronavirus under control, but concerns over sporadic renewed outbreaks linger. The capital city has maintained strict disease-prevention measures.
Spokesman Guo briefed journalists on the agenda for this year’s CPPCC meeting and responded to questions over the video link. He emphasized the stability of China’s economic fundamentals despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and said the country will continue advancing reforms to liberate the economy while engaging in international collaboration.
The pandemic has caused disruptions to international cooperation and global industrial chains, Guo said, arguing that this also underlines the importance of globalization and multilateralism.
“The idea of decoupling from China is not a sound solution, as the global industrial chain and supply chain structures have been formed over the years and are relatively stable,” he told reporters.
Journalists covering this year’s Two Sessions are experiencing some other new routines. I was among reporters invited by conference organizers to move into designated hotels Tuesday. About 35 reporters live in the same hotel with me. It is tightly controlled with free entrance banned.
Participating journalists are required to take nucleic acid tests for the coronavirus before they attend every event. I took the test at 6 a.m. Wednesday before the CPPCC press conference. Fully protected medical staff spent about 50 seconds taking a throat swab from each person.
A reporter takes a nucleic acid test Wednesday before attending the press conference. Photo: Luo Guoping/Caixin
After the tests, we returned to our hotel rooms, where we received breakfast and lunch. Fortunately, the tests cleared all the journalists for the conference by noon.
A designated bus took us to the media center for the briefing, and everyone’s identification credentials were carefully checked before we could enter the conference room.
Afterward, reporters were then sent back to the hotel, completing the first day of our coverage of the Two Sessions.
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