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China Kicks off Its Politically Significant Annual Parliament Season

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: Reuters)

The CPPCC will begin its week-long session from Thursday which will be attended by Xi and other leaders while the NPC kicks off its meeting from March 5.

China on Wednesday began its politically significant annual Parliament season, amid mounting political and economic challenges in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and the growing adversity with the US over a host of issues including, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The gathering of China’s political elite is taking place ahead of this year’s centenary celebrations of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and increasingly assertive leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Xi, 67, has established himself as the most powerful leader after Mao Zedong with prospects of life-long tenure in power following scrapping of two-year tenure rule for the Presidency. Every year in March, the full sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s parliament and the advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) hold their sessions with full members totalling over 5,000 legislators and advisors.

The CPPCC will begin its week-long session from Thursday which will be attended by Xi and other leaders while the NPC kicks off its meeting from March 5. The political season began on Wednesday with a nationally televised press conference by its spokesman. During this year’s meeting, the NPC, often described as a rubber stamp parliament for its routine approval of the CPC proposals, is set to endorse the 14th Five Year plan and the plan for Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.

While the 14th Five-Year plan envisages a massive overhaul of the country’s domestic market to boost consumption in order to reduce China’s reliance on shrinking exports markets, the Vision 2035 visualises a long-term plan, reflecting the development vision outlined by president Xi. China’s status as a world’s factory has been affected by declining global markets and the trade war initiated by former US president Donald Trump, followed by his successor Joe Biden as well, by his move to ban of Chinese tech firms like Huawei, TikTok and restrictions on exports of semiconductor chips to China deepening the technology conflict between top two world economies.

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The relations between the US and China are at an all-time low. The two countries are currently engaged in a bitter confrontation over various issues, including trade, the origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the communist giant’s aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea and human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China is also expected to increase about seven per cent of its defence budget which last year was 1.268 trillion yuan (close to USD 200 billion), according to report in state-run Global Times. It is over three times higher than India’s defence budget of USD 47.4 billion.

Security as well as COVID-19 monitoring has been increased in Beijing ahead of CPCC and NPC sessions. Last year, the two sessions were held in May instead of March due to a coronavirus outbreak. This year only, Beijing-based foreign correspondents were invited to cover the proceedings mostly through video links due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Correspondents covering the events should undergo coronavirus tests every day before attending the events. Though China is exporting its coronavirus vaccines to different countries, the Chinese leadership is yet to get vaccinated. Reports say delegates attending the parliament sessions were being inoculated.

Answering a question at the press conference about China’s pursuing COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy, CPCCC spokesman Guo Weimin said China’s exports of vaccines to expand geopolitical clout is a narrow-minded view. China has always put the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines first, Guo said. So far China has administered 52 million vaccine doses of vaccines to people at home. Some foreign leaders have taken Chinese vaccines as well, he said.

China has also provided vaccines to 69 countries and two international organisations, and exported vaccines to 28 countries, Guo said. On criticism about the recent announcement by President Xi that China eradicated absolute poverty, he said, ”experts said China’s poverty alleviation standard is a comprehensive one and higher than the World Bank’s standard of USD 1.90 per day. The basic living needs of the rural population are met.” ”Despite the remarkable achievement pocketed in poverty alleviation cause, China’s development remains unbalanced and inadequate, hence the country is poised to consolidate the gains of poverty alleviation and press ahead with the rural revitalisation strategy,” he said.

On the imposition of national security law in Hong Kong, much against the wishes of local people, he said the purposes of adopting and implementing the law on safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and improving its electoral system are both to uphold and improve the ”one country, two systems” and to ensure its steady and sustained development in a right direction, he said. He also decried calls for boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over allegations of genocide in Xinjiang against Uighur Muslims as ”futile” Attempts to politicise sports games and disturb and sabotage the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are futile and doomed to fail, he said.

The 2022 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIV Olympic Winter Games is scheduled to be held from February 2022 in Beijing and towns in the neighbouring Hebei province.

first published:March 03, 2021, 18:48 IST