China's "two sessions," the annual gatherings of the country's top legislature and political consultative body, are always occasions for global observers to get a peek into how China's major policies and measures are discussed and formed, and also serve as great opportunities for outsiders to observe how China's top state leaders relate to the legislators and advisors, and display their political values.
Since 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has joined lawmakers and political advisors in group discussions on 53 occasions. Concern for people’s livelihood and wellbeing has always featured his talks during the annual sessions.
Aerial photo taken on October 1, 2021 shows a view of the paddy fields in Yongji County of Jilin City, northeast China's Jilin Province. (Xinhua/Xu Chang)
When it comes to the wellbeing of the public, there is no such thing as a trivial matter, Xi stressed while participating in the joint group meeting of national political advisors from the sectors of agriculture, welfare and social security, who were attending the fifth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
During the meeting, Xi in particular showed his concern for the people in difficulty. He called for continued efforts to promote the high-quality development of social security and further develop a better social safety net to secure the wellbeing of the people.
“We must give extra attention and care to the people in difficulty, to help them resolve problems,” said Xi, emphasizing, “We should ensure rehabilitation, education, and employment for people with disabilities.”
Zhao Chen, a visually impaired young man who was appointed as a youth advocate in 2021 by UNICEF China, echoed Xi’s concern. "We need an inclusive society, where the needs of people with disabilities could be better understood, and everyone can have equal access to social life,” he said. On a positive note, Zhao said that China’s rapid development in digital technology and networking platforms has allowed disabled people like him to have easy access to information.
The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled was ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, in October 2021, and will take effect in China this May. It will make it much easier for people with visual impairments to get specially adapted books.
Data also shows that the participation rate for Chinese people with disabilities in grassroots cultural and sports activities has increased dramatically from 6.8 percent in 2015 to 23.9 percent in 2021.
"We should shore up weak links in social welfare in rural areas, and give particular attention and care to disadvantaged groups such as elderly people and children, especially elderly people, children, and women left behind in rural areas," said Xi during the meeting. He then further emphasized that the country should "guarantee the safety and basic living needs of vagrants and beggars, ensure support and care for people with mental illness, and take resolute steps to stop mistreatment of women, children, elderly people and people with disabilities."
According to the National Development and Reform Commission, RMB 3 billion has been appropriated in 2022 from China’s central budget to improve weak links in social welfare and ensure people's well-being. A total of 261 projects related to child welfare, assistance for the homeless, rehabilitation and care for people with disabilities, as well as veteran services, basic funeral services and mental health welfare will be supported by the funds.
Meanwhile, the lawful rights and interests of minors in the country has been further protected, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP). Prosecutors across the country opened 6,633 public interest cases regarding the protection of underage people in 2021, 4.2 times the figure in 2020, data from the SPP show.
During the meeting with the political advisors, Xi also emphasized the importance of food security for the country. "Food security is among a country's most fundamental interests," said Xi, adding, “Of all things, eating matters most, and food is the most basic necessity of the people.” Xi pointed out that the country should adopt a "Greater Food" approach, and, with the aim of better satisfying the people's needs for a better life, grasp the changes in people's food structure.
A line from American environmental analyst Lester R. Brown’s book Who Will Feed China: Wake-up Call for a Small Planet (1995) says, "In an integrated world economy, China's rising food prices will become the world's rising food prices. China's land scarcity will become everyone's land scarcity."
China has provided a powerful answer to the book's question. “Seven decades ago, the country had an underfed population of 400 million, but today its 1.4 billion people are eating well with a great range of choices,” said Xi. Through relentless and strenuous efforts, China is now capable of feeding one fifth of the global population with nine percent of the world's arable land and six percent of the freshwater resources.
Xi called on the country to shift the focus from farmland only to developing the whole country's land resources, in line with their specific conditions, grain production, agribusiness, animal husbandry, fishing or forestry, while protecting the ecology and environment.
Aerial photo taken on December 29, 2021 shows a photovoltaic power base in Xiangshan County, Ningbo City of east China's Zhejiang Province. (Xinhua/Xu Yu)
When attending the deliberation with deputies from the delegation of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at the fifth session of the 13th NPC, Xi also emphasized ecological protection and low-carbon development.
"In light of our country's energy situation, rich in coal and poor in oil and gas resources, we should act on the national plans and arrangements for carbon emissions peaking and carbon neutrality, apply systems thinking, stay committed to the principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability step by step, and coordinate efforts to reduce carbon emissions, address pollution, promote green development, and maintain continued growth," he said.
Data from the National Energy Administration showed that China registered a steady growth in its installed capacity of renewable energy that totaled 1.06 billion kilowatts, accounting for 44.8 percent of the country's total installed power generation capacity, by the end of 2021. Last year, 2.48 trillion kWh of electricity was generated from renewable energy sources, which accounted for 29.8 percent of the country's total electricity consumption.
Meanwhile, Xi cautioned, "When carrying out carbon reduction, we must also ensure the security of energy, food, and industrial and supply chains, as well as the normal life and work of our people. We must not distance ourselves from realities and rush for quick results."