China ushers annual parliamentary session

Guo Weimin, spokesperson for the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference speaks to media at a press conference on March 3, ahead of the top political advisory body's annual session. - VCG

BEIJING (Global Times): Top political advisory body held its first press conference on Wednesday ahead of its annual sessions, which means China has officially ushered in "two session" time.

The country's annual top political event carries extra weight this year, as China moves to further consolidate its lead in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic and poises to set ambitious goals for years to come.

Use of virtual tools and mask-clad reporters at the press briefing still remind people the extraordinary times under CovidD-19, the opening of the sessions at its traditional timeframe and the extensive agenda underscored the country's definitive success against the deadly virus and renewed confidence in its national strength to strive for bolder achievements.

Compared to a 78-day delay in holding the annual "two sessions" last year - an unprecedented one amid the epidemic -- thousands of deputies and members arrived in Beijing with palpable elation, who are ready to review and discuss a number of economic and social issues including setting growth targets, budget, Hong Kong-related reforms, as well as mapping out blueprint for the country's social and economic development for the next 5-15 years.

Top Chinese policymakers are also expected to review and discuss major policy initiatives in the face of growing external challenges with rising anti-China sentiment in some Western countries while making deep reflection on how to maximize the advantages of China's governance system and socialist democracy in a turbulent environment.

Deputies and members needed to undergo strict quarantine after arriving in Beijing for the two sessions, while they only had to take nucleic acid tests this year, and some members told the Global Times they could freely travel domestically after this year's meetings end.

Closed-off management is still part of epidemic control this year, but one member who spoke with the Global Times said they have full confidence in this year's sessions - a critical one after the country quickly stepped out of the shadow of the epidemic.

With all eyes on the two sessions -- a window into policy agenda and various economic and social development targets for the year, the fourth annual session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and that of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) will begin on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Guo Weimin, spokesperson for the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC, told a press conference on Wednesday that the session of China's top political advisory body, which was scheduled to open on Thursday afternoon, will conclude on March 10, with two plenary meetings and six group meetings other than the opening and closing meetings.

The plenary meetings will be held via video link, the spokesperson said. The NPC session usually concludes one day after the conclusion of CPPCC meeting.

The CPPCC sessions have been shortened this year, which would last by six and a half days, after considering last year's experiences and the epidemic prevention work, the Chinese official said, noting that the number of staff was also reduced with a mix of online and offline meetings.

The sessions would be two days longer than last year's. When the two sessions began last year, China still recorded single-digital increase in new coronavirus cases, with four new confirmed cases on May 21, 2020.

But now the Chinese mainland has recorded zero domestically-transmitted new cases for consecutive 16 days.

"While the schedule for the two sessions has been condensed to about a week compared to two weeks before the pandemic, proper arrangements and improved efficiency would ensure the productivity of the meetings," Li Chang'an, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics' School of Public Administration, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

This year's annual two sessions also carry extra weight, as it caps not only China's success in recovering from the Covid-19, completing the 13th Five-Year Plan and eradicating extreme poverty, but also marks the start of a new five-year plan and long-range targets through 2035.

"This meeting comes at a very special time in our country's development, as it's the starting year for new development tasks and goals," Li said.

Among the packed policy agenda, the focus will be on what the country aims to achieve in terms of economic growth this year and beyond, the expert added.

Besides growth targets, a number of issues including the Hong Kong political reforms, defense budget, high quality growth, public health system, and self-reliance on high-tech are expected to top the agenda of this year's meetings.

And compared with last year's two sessions when proposals on how to curb the Covid-19 epidemic, filling the loopholes on the country's health crisis response mechanism and improving its medical system flooded on the internet, this year's two sessions will emphasize hot social issues including vaccine management, medical care, housing, education, personal information security and employment.

It is believed to be a sign that people's lives are returning to normal, according to deputies and members to the meetings.

The fourth session of NPC, the country's top legislature, is scheduled to open on Friday, with a schedule including a review of a blueprint for China's development in the next five to 15 years -- the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan and the long-range objectives through the year 2035, in addition to hearing the annual work reports of the government, top legislature, top court and top procuratorate.

Another major differences signaling China being back to normalcy in the post-Covid19 was the number of reporters who attended the first press conference of this year's two sessions has been increased significantly compared to that of the meetings in 2020.

At the proceedings, the advantages of China's governance system and capability in design and executing complicated development plans would also be on full display, as legislators and political advisors are expected to review and discuss major policy initiatives in a stable and orderly fashion in stark contrast to constant gridlock and partisan fights in some Western countries, analysts said.

"While the differences in governance systems have been overly politicized, the ultimate test for each system is its ability to advance society and improve people's lives... in China, we have a very effective system to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) development plans and execute them," Li Yong, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

While some foreign politicians and media outlets have been relentlessly smearing China's policy and economic system, Li said that over time with continued achievements in not just lifting the country up but also contributing to global affairs would help the world better recognise the Chinese system.

Some deputies and members from Hong Kong said they were proud of seeing the two sessions being held on time, especially as some countries are still fighting the epidemic.

Also, the Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines are playing a leading role in helping protect people not only in China but also foreign countries, "which further strengthened the confidence of Hong Kong people in the future of our country," Chan Yung, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC, told the Global Times in a recent interview.

By the end of February, China had provided home-made Covid-19 vaccines to 69 countries and two international organizations, and exported its vaccines to 28 countries, Guo told the press conference on Wednesday.

"Some foreign media classifying China's efforts to provide vaccines to other countries to combat the pandemic as 'vaccine diplomacy' are very narrow-minded," Guo said, referring these efforts as part of China's commitment in fighting the common enemy of humanity.

Over the past year, the confidence of Chinese people in its own political system has also been further consolidated as China spent the shortest period in controlling the epidemic, achieved positive economic growth, completed the poverty alleviation task and became a moderately prosperous society, experts said.

Though it still faces severe challenges, the momentum is on the side of the country, Chinese officials said, which observers considered this year's two sessions as a moment of further consolidation and mobilization in achieving the new goals. - Global Times

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