EVENTS that hold the center of global attention and set the course of changes taking place on a global scale are few in number, and the international community follows their proceedings and conclusions with full attention. Among them, China’s Two Sessions – the NPC and CPPCC annual sessions – have qualified for the status of global attention in true letter and spirit.
The world is curious to understand China’s economic, political, and social philosophy to discover new pathways to success. Because these two sessions offer fresh and deep insights into China’s national policy, governance system, and empirical vision for interacting with foreign countries, they appear to be the apple of the world’s eye.
Iconic gatherings known as annual meetings of the national legislature and political advisory body are big events on the world’s stage. They address a wide spectrum of topics ranging from internal to external issues relating to new laws, regulations, policies, and reforms that matter a lot to China as well as the world.
The world is abuzz with the influence of globalization and its benefits. The attendance and attention around NPC and CPPCC are a good evaluation of the global sway of the Belt and Road Initiative. Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the Second Session of the 13th NPC, said that 152 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation documents with China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – an important platform for building a community with a shared future on the principle of extensive consultations and joint contributions for benefits shared by all. The goods trade volume between China and countries along the Belt and Road exceeded US $5 trillion between 2013 and 2017, total direct Chinese investment in those countries surpassed US $70 billion, and more than 200,000 jobs were created, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
On March 15, 2019, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang addresses Chinese and foreign reporters and takes their questions at a press conference of the Second Session of the 13th National People’s Congress. Dong Ning
The world is attracted by the Two Sessions, knowing that the economic resilience and indicators that signify progress throughout the year are the results of deliberations made during the sessions of the NPC and CPPCC which are held every year.
Keeping in mind the rules and regulations adopted at the Two Sessions, the international community is watchful of China’s fresh economic upswing. According to the Ministry of Commerce, China attracted RMB 84.18 billion (US $12.41 billion) in foreign direct investment (FDI) in January 2019. Sizable amounts of foreign capital flowed to the country’s hi-tech service industry, more than double compared with the same period in 2018, reaching RMB 15.77 billion.
One major reason the international community appears fascinated with this year’s Two Sessions, is the review and approval of the Foreign Investment Law. Amendments or innovative points added to the new law will determine rules of business for foreign companies operating in China.
All eyes are fixed on the connotations of the policy measure. Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, says the newly approved law demonstrates China’s determination to open wider to the world. “China will not close its door to the world, but will only become more and more open,” said Li, adding that the law’s formulation and implementation would further boost the confidence of foreign businesses to invest in China.
Kenneth Jarrett, senior adviser with Albright Stone-bridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm in the United States, said the law has elements that will be welcomed by foreign businesses – affirmations of “national treatment,” better intellectual property rights protection, prohibition of forced technology transfer, and the ability to compete for government procurement contracts, to give some examples. At the same time, he urged policymakers to take further steps to reduce barriers for foreign companies and step up financial sector liberalization.
China’s business environment is a widely debated issue at the annual meetings of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and the 13th NPC. This topic has drawn much global attention as global trade hinges on its outcome.
With the passing of the law, besides the shrinking of the negative list, all enterprises, foreign or private, will be treated equally in the attainment of resources, market access, license application, and every aspect of the operation process.
He Weiwen, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said, “Preferential policies for state-owned enterprises will no longer be available after the passing of the law.” He stressed that this is a huge step forward, creating a friendlier business environment for both private and foreign enterprises. China also piloted a business environment evaluation in 22 cities. Businesses around the world also applaud the new impetus to shrink the negative list, allowing foreign firms to operate on a level playing field.
The Chinese government has introduced a slew of monetary and fiscal policies to support small and medium-sized private enterprises as well. In this year’s government work report, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to boost support for private enterprises. During the Two Sessions, Beijing also announced a cut of three percentage points in value-added tax rate (VAT) for manufacturers and one percentage point for construction and transport companies. Combined together, the VAT cuts are equivalent to as much as RMB 800 billion, and will boost corporate earnings.
After the United States pulled out from the Paris Climate Agreement, the world’s eyes turned to China and its policies on climate issues. After the Two Sessions began their proceedings and talked about environmental challenges at length, relief and contentment prevailed among global climate campaigners.
Premier Li Keqiang pledged in the government work report at the opening of the Second Session of the 13th NPC that the government has stepped up efforts to reform and refine its systems to facilitate the country’s pursuit of high-quality development and environmental protection as green development is a critical element in modernizing the economy and a fundamental solution to pollution.
The government will unveil a series of measures to strengthen green and environmental industries, including quickening the pace of upgrading thermal power, steel, and other industries to achieve ultra-low emissions. It will also enforce upgrades in sectors that cause high pollution to help them comply with standards, Li said.
“Promoting green development is down to every last one of us; its success hinges on action and commitment. We must all work together to create a beautiful and livable environment for our people,” Li said.
China is the second largest economy of the world. Developed and developing nations want to understand how China is becoming a role model in uplifting the lives of people despite financial and social odds. The Two Sessions have provided an opportunity to the world to peer into China and its vision.
About 13.86 million rural residents in China were lifted out of poverty in 2018. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for perseverance in the fight against poverty as there are only two years left for the country to meet its goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2020. “There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” said Xi.
In the past, the world was not very well informed about China’s legal system. With the Two Sessions, a great deal of information is readily accessible. Forty years ago, the country had hardly any lawyers, but there are currently about 400,00 lawyers in China. China began its reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, during which the legal system began to see significant changes. According to China’s Ministry of Justice, there are over 40,000 public legal service centers or stations nationwide. The centers and stations cover a vast majority of urban and rural areas, where people can get free legal advice from lawyers. China’s Ministry of Justice estimates that the number of Chinese lawyers will increase to 620,000 by 2022.
During the annual Two Sessions, NPC deputies are supposed to submit motions or suggestions which can pave the way for legislation or policy adjustments, and political advisers – members of the National Committee of the CPPCC, China’s top political advisory body – put forth proposals and lay down suggestions and opinions to the people’s congresses and government agencies. All these motions, suggestions, and proposals will influence decisions that will affect the daily lives of Chinese citizens.
The anti-corruption drive is another important topic that always attracts a global audience. The Supervision Law and an amendment to the Constitution adopted by the First Session of the 13th NPC which was held in March last year laid a solid legal foundation for an upgraded anti-graft task force, with the National Supervisory Commission and its local branches set up across the country over the past year. Establishing supervisory commissions at all levels is considered a major political reform. They are at the same level with the government, court, and procuratorate.
At international forums, Chinese leaders have repeatedly said China will strengthen cooperation on law enforcement with other countries to combat cross-border corruption and dissuade other jurisdictions from offering a “safe harbor” to fugitives.
The National Supervisory Commission says anti-graft officers will focus on investigating corruption that harms people’s vital interests in education, medical care, ecological protection, and food and drug safety. They will also investigate corrupt behaviors at the grassroots level, uprooting the “protective umbrellas” that facilitate and cover up the activities of organized criminal gangs and other “evil forces.”
YASIR HABIB KHAN is a senior journalist and president of the Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR).