Implications of Outcomes from the Annual Chinese National People’s Congress Meeting

The Chinese Parliament (NPC) commenced its fourteenth annual session on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, and concluded on March 11 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The sessions were inaugurated in the presence of President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang, and numerous Communist Party political leaders. Simultaneously, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was held, an event often referred to euphemistically as the “Two Sessions.”

Multiple Dimensions:

Regarding the context of this conference, several pertinent considerations are as follows:

  1. Conference Issues: The conference’s agenda covered numerous topics, with a primary focus on economic issues, particularly the real estate sector, recession, slow growth, and the issue of youth unemployment, which surpassed 15% by the end of 2023, according to the Chinese Statistical Office. This figure comes after a revision in the method of calculation, which had previously estimated unemployment rates last summer at over 20%.
  2. The Importance of the Conference: Although the Chinese legislature’s roles are largely ceremonial and lack genuine authority in decision-making and legislation, the annual session is significant for ratifying resolutions already adopted and drafted by the Communist Party. Nonetheless, the parliamentary session allows for discussion and the introduction of new ideas. Furthermore, the conference’s conclusions indicate the government’s future policy directions.

Conference Content:

The annual meeting sessions included several events and discussions beyond the agenda items, summarized as follows:

  1. Government Work Program and Development Plan: Premier Li Qiang presented a report on the government’s work and the implementation of the central and local budgets for 2023, along with the draft budget for 2024. Legislators also reviewed reports on the 2023 Agenda for National Economic and Social Development and the draft 2024 Agenda.
  2. Amendment of Some Laws: Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Lee Hongzhong, introduced a draft amendment to the Basic Law of the State Council during the opening session.
  3. Discussions on Political Affairs: Sessions were held to discuss work reports from various legislative, executive, and judicial institutions, including the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
  4. Abolition of Conventional Traditions: The tradition of the premier’s press conference at the conclusion of the annual parliamentary meeting, established in 1993, was discontinued. Some Western analyses suggest this reflects increasing central control, diminished prime ministerial power relative to the party, and reduced transparency and interest in providing economic and internal affairs briefings to the press and international community.

Outputs and Repercussions:

The conference yielded several outcomes and insights on issues of domestic and international concern for China, as follows:

  1. Growth Targets: The conference set a goal for approximately 5% economic growth and a 3% deficit rate for the year, with plans to issue national bonds worth one trillion yuan. Emphasis was placed on investing in technology and developing emerging industries, with R&D spending expected to increase by 10%, according to Times estimates. Digital technology was a key agenda item as China seeks to navigate economic challenges.
  2. Adoption of Amendments to the Basic Law of the State Council: Amendments were adopted to enhance the Communist Party leadership and its Central Committee’s powers, aligning with the socialism model with Chinese characteristics and the requirements of the modern era as envisioned by Xi. These amendments appear consistent with the abolition of the premier’s press release, suggesting a shift towards reducing his powers in favor of Xi.
  3. Military and Security Capabilities: Xi advocated for deepening reform and enhancing strategic capabilities and innovation, particularly in emerging fields, to achieve self-sufficiency and contribute to China’s modernization as a superpower. Focus areas included cyberspace defense capabilities, artificial intelligence applications, development of combat drones, naval military readiness, protecting maritime rights and interests, developing the maritime economy, enhancing China’s aerospace system, and building a cyberspace defense system for national cybersecurity protection.
  4. Laws to Protect National Security: Some Western media, citing Chinese lawmakers, reported that Beijing is intensifying its legislative efforts to safeguard national security through laws such as the Emergency Management Law, Energy Law, Atomic Energy Law, Hazardous Chemicals Safety Law, Military Education Law, and Cybersecurity Law.
  5. The One China Principle: The conference underscored the importance of reunification and national unity, opposing pro-independence separatism in Taiwan. Vice Premier Deng Xuexiang met with delegations from the Hong Kong and Macau regions to affirm the “one country, two systems” principle. Notably, the parliamentary meeting included the participation of 13 delegates from Taiwan, a move whose usefulness and reality are debated.
  6. Youth and Elderly Issues: The government’s report highlighted efforts to facilitate the registration of rural migrant workers in urban areas and reform the hukou system, which allocates social benefits to workers. China plans to enhance support policies for the elderly, improve basic pensions, and reform the private pension system. However, some analyses criticize the lack of focus on societal and economic reforms to promote social justice and equitable income and wealth distribution among Chinese households.
  7. Independent Foreign Policy: China commits to maintaining an independent foreign policy focused on peace and peaceful development while opposing hegemonic and authoritarian practices.
  8. Muslim Issues: Efforts to assimilate Islam in China’s Muslim-majority regions, like other religions, were emphasized by Ma Xingrui, chairman of the Communist Party of Xinjiang, who also highlighted the region’s economic development and refuted claims of cultural genocide.
  9. Repercussions of the Press Release Cancellation: According to Bloomberg, the cancellation has negative implications for the Chinese economy, particularly as investors seek more detailed information about the government’s economic revival plans. This development negatively affected Chinese stock markets, reflecting concerns about diminished transparency.

In summary, the dynamics and developments at the conference reflect President Xi’s efforts to strengthen central control over the Chinese political system’s decision-making process, diminish the roles of other power centers through legal amendments, and emphasize the economy, national security protection, and China’s military capabilities in the technical field as top priorities.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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