All eyes are on China again as the country gears up for its annual Two Sessions, the most important event in China’s political calendar. China will hold the plenary session of the National People’s Congress and the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in late May, which shows that China is confident that it has the coronavirus outbreak under control.
The NPC Standing Committee, China’s top legislature, decided in February to postpone the event to stay focused on the coronavirus fight and to protect the health and safety of everyone in the country. About two months later on April 29, the NPC Standing Committee decided to open the Two Sessions on May 22, saying that the situation in China is improving and normal economic and social life is resuming. Separately, the CPPCC, the country’s top political advisory body, has decided to open its annual session on May 21.
The decision to convene such a large-scale political event in the nation’s capital is a sign of confidence and a signal that China is ready to take a step toward a return to normal.
Now that the key event has a new date, people want to know how China will organize the sessions and what the hot issues are.
Photo taken on April 29, 2020 shows the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua_Xing Guangli)
What is different this year?
To postpone or not to postpone the nation’s top annual political meetings was no doubt a difficult decision, but China decided to postpone the sessions due to the coronavirus, which has infected about 84,000 people in China. To highlight the importance and rarity of that decision, China has held the openings of the annual sessions on March 5 and March 3, respectively, for decades without interruption. However, by postponing the sessions, China gave itself a wider window of opportunity to fight the coronavirus and to identify how to minimize its impact. This shows that China is practical and that the Chinese government is putting the people’s health and safety first.
Because of the coronavirus, the Two Sessions this year will be somewhat different. Usually thousands of NPC deputies and CPPCC members descend on Beijing from all over the country, and hundreds of journalists will gather at the Great Hall of the People and other venues to cover the event. However, this year the meetings will be scaled down and the number of journalists will be limited in light of the situation. Therefore, many journalists will have to do video and phone interviews with the deputies or members who attend the meetings. Another way in which this year will likely be different is the length of the sessions, which could be shortened to one week.
What is important this year?
Every year around the time of the Two Sessions, there is intense interest from China watchers the world over in what the hot topics are. This year is no different. During the gathering of the National People’s Congress, the highlight of the annual political gathering, the session will ratify major legislation and the central government will set major economic targets. It is also a good time for the announcement of major policy initiatives.
The main topics of discussion this year will likely center on the prevention and control of major epidemics, building a well-off society in an all-round way in China, tackling poverty, and preparing the 14th five-year plan. Because of the coronavirus, prevention and control of major epidemics will take a center stage and China may reform and modernize its disease prevention and control system to address weaknesses in how it addresses major epidemics and public health issues. China will also likely approve the adoption of its first-ever civil code, a collection of laws governing legal disputes based on the principles of equality, fairness, and good faith.
Does this all matter? The simple answer is that the Two Sessions truly does matter. All countries in the world are in the same boat, a fact that the coronavirus has showed us. China is a massive country and the second largest economy in the world, so what happens in Beijing will also matter for the world. China may seem like a distant concern to some people and others may have little or no interest in the world of Chinese politics, but the key political event will not only help shape the future of China, it will also help shape the future of the world around China. In that sense, the Two Sessions is a global event.