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China’s annual parliament opens in key year for Xi

China’s annual parliament opens in key year for Xi

BEIJING: Thousands of delegates gathered for the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp parliament yesterday (Mar 5), a week of highly choreographed sessions that will lay out the leadership’s blueprint for the year ahead.

ChineseCOVID-19Coronaviruspolitics
By AFP

Sunday 6 March 2022, 11:34AM


Beijing’s Great Hall of the People will host the annual meeting of China’s parliament which started yesterday (Mar 5).

Beijing’s Great Hall of the People will host the annual meeting of China’s parliament which started yesterday (Mar 5).

About 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) will fill Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People to hear the country’s leaders tout the achievements and power of the Communist Party.

It is also an important occasion for the party to detail its priorities, economic expectations and foreign policy for a year in which President Xi Jinping hopes to cement his grip on power.

While prior NPC meetings have unveiled high-profile legislation such as the draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong and reversals to the country’s one-child policy, no flagship policies are expected this year.

Much of the NPC’s agenda is unknown until during - or even after - the meeting, with many sessions taking place behind closed doors.

For the third year running, the forum will take place in pared-down fashion due to China’s stringent “zero-COVID” strategy.

The policy has seen the country largely close its borders for nearly two years and control outbreaks through lockdowns, monitoring apps, travel restrictions and mass testing.

Policymakers are expected to discuss strategies for boosting the number of babies born, after fears of a demographic crisis when the birth rate plummeted to a record low last year.

Premier Li Keqiang was also expected to announce the country’s economic growth target yesterday during his annual “state of the nation” speech.

Last year, Li announced a modest goal of “above six percent”, and an equally open goal is expected this year after growth slowed sharply in the final month of 2021.

Warm-up for Party Congress

The seven-day NPC meeting is the lesser of two political events this year, as China’s Communist Party gears up for its 20th Party Congress in autumn.

The pivotal October gathering is expected to easily secure Xi a third term after he changed the constitution to remove term limits.

“The mantra in 2022 will be stability, stability, stability”, said Yuen Yuen Ang, author of “China’s Gilded Age”.

The country’s leaders have long based their legitimacy on the argument that their model of government represents economic growth and continuity for China’s massive population.

To that end, Ang said party leadership will want everything to be “predictable” in the lead-up to the autumn congress.

A key resolution on the country’s history passed last year was designed to help Xi shore up his grip on power by setting in stone his vision for China.

“President Xi is on a mission to redefine the meaning of development in China and also the basis for the Party’s legitimacy,” she added.

“GDP growth alone is not enough. The goalposts have shifted to equity and justice, hence the common prosperity and anti-corruption campaigns. The Party Congress will reiterate these themes.”

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