All eyes on ‘parliament’ session

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 11 Mar 2019

Captivating viewers: Xin, an artificial intelligence news anchor, presented the news on the Two Sessions meeting.

XIN Xiaomeng, a new TV presenter, stole the limelight from her seniors in her debut at the Two Sessions, the biggest political event in China.

Clad in a pink and maroon dress and wearing a pair of pearl earrings, the short-haired news anchor started with a pre-event report: “Outstation delegates have all arrived in Beijing, all preparation works have been completed...”.

The one-minute report on March 2 was her first job. She did it pretty well, no mistakes, something that even an experienced news presenter could not escape.

At one glance, she looked and sounded no different from any other newscaster but her speech obviously did not sync well with the lip movement.

Xin in fact is a robotic news anchor launched by Xinhua, China’s national news agency, to coincide with the Two Sessions gathering.

The artificial intelligence newscaster, who mimics human facial expressions, was modelled after Qu Meng, a real life news anchor of the agency.

Xin is not the first AI newscaster produced by Xinhua, which has two other AI male presenters that have since produced over 3,400 news reports over the past four months.

The Two Sessions, or Lianghui in Chinese, is the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

It is similar to a parliament session.

In brief, the NPC is the country’s top legislative body while the CPPCC acts an advisory body whose members comprise scholars and celebrities including kungfu star Jackie Chan, film director Feng Xiaogang and basketball star Yao Ming.

Members of the CPPCC do not have voting rights in the national legislature.

NPC is held between March 5 and 15 while the CPPCC is from March 3 to 13.

One of the main agendas this year will be the draft Foreign Investment Law, which was submitted for review last Friday (and put for vote this Friday (on March 15).

The new law, if passed, will replace the three existing ones which are considered outdated as they were adopted in the late 1970s and 1980s.

It provides better protection of foreign investors’ legitimate rights and interests, addressing issues like expropriation and compensation, intellectual property protection and technology transfer.

Premier Li Keqiang, in delivering the 2019 Draft Plan for National Economic and Social Development, said the nation would relax controls over market access for foreign capital, open up more sectors (in agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services) for wholly foreign-funded enterprises and strengthen cooperation with Asean on creating a network of smart cities.

“We will build high-quality overseas platforms such as economic and trade zones as well as industrial parks, and work to promote the development of a Digital Silk Road across the globe,” he added.

Last year, China’s total volume of trade in goods exceeded 30 trillion yuan (RM18.4 trillion) and its utilised foreign investment totalled US$138.3bil (RM559.25bil).

Zhang Yesui, spokesman for NPC, said with the new law, foreign investors would be treated the same as domestic investors.

“This is a fundamental change in China’s foreign investment management system and it will help create a more open, transparent and predictable environment for investors,” Zhang to a press conference.

For 2019, China has projected a 6% to 6.5% of GDP growth, targeted to create 11 million new urban jobs and to control the urban unemployment rate at 5.5%.

Battling pollution and alleviating poverty will continue to be among the main tasks this year, with the government aiming to further reduce 10 million of rural poor population.

China has also allocated a budget of 577.6 billion yuan (RM354bil) for investment, 40 billion yuan (RM24.5bil) more than 2018.

The sum will be used to support agriculture, major infrastructure projects, innovation-driven and energy-saving development, environmental protection and social programmes, among others.

In the past, it is common for a Chinese guest to show up at someone’s doorstep with cartons of cigarettes and bottles of liquor as gifts.

Cigarettes were a must-have at wedding banquets where the host placed them on dining tables.

This created a huge smokers circle in China.

But as more people become health-conscious, the country has come up with a list of policies to get rid of the bad habit.

In Beijing, all air-conditioning eateries and hotels including the rooms are non-smoking areas, but there are still some hardcore smokers who ignore the ban.

One member of the NPC has suggested that cigarette packs carry graphic health warnings to alert smokers of the potential health hazards.

Chen Jingyu, who is also vice-president of Wuxi People’s Hospital, pointed out that the country has 316 million smokers.

“The number of Chinese men aged between 40 and 79 who died from smoking-related diseases doubled in the last 15 years.

“Graphic health warnings are one of the most effective and cheap ways to inform the public of the hazards of smoking,” he told China Daily.

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