At the annual meetings of China’s parliament and political advisory body, Xi Jinping is installed as president for an unprecedented third term.
Thousands of delegates from across China are heading to Beijing for the country’s annual legislative sessions, which begin on the weekend and are closely watched for indications of where government policy might go.
The so-called “Two Sessions” will begin on March 4 with the annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The next day, the National People’s Congress (NPC) opens. The procedure is expected to take several weeks.
In previous years, important policies have been announced during the event.
In 2018, Congress voted to remove the traditional two-term limit on Chinese leaders, giving President Xi Jinping the chance to rule for life and two years later, delegates passed the sweeping national security law for Hong Kong after sometimes violent mass protests in 2019 .
Here’s what you need to know about the meetings:
What’s happening this weekend?
- The 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference kicks off on Saturday (March 4), with Xi expected to deliver the opening address. The CPPCC is an advisory body of party delegates and scholars from the arts, business and legal fields.
- The 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) begins on Sunday (March 5) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
- Together, the two meetings are known as the “Lianghui” or “Two Sessions” and are the first to take place since China suddenly flipped its controversial zero-COVID policy.
- According to state media, deputies will still have to go through a “closed loop” system of testing and surveillance to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Reporters covering the event must be quarantined from Friday.
What is the National People’s Congress?
- Officially, the NPC is China’s national legislature and the “supreme organ of state power” with the power to amend the constitution. In reality, it is more like a rubber stamp, meeting once a year to approve policies already enacted by senior officials within the ruling Communist Party.
- The full NPC typically has about 3,000 deputies elected by China’s administrative units, autonomous regions, and armed forces. They hold office for five years.
- In the 14th NPC, 790 (26.5 percent) of the 2,977 delegates are women and 442 (14.8 percent) belong to minority ethnic groups.
- The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) also sits for five years and has approximately 170 members. It has the power to appoint or remove top officials of central government agencies, ratify treaties, interpret national laws, grant special amnesty, and confer state honours. The NPCSC continues its work beyond the annual NPC sessions.
- According to the NPC Observer, an online outlet that tracks parliament’s activities, the full NPC has never voted down a single agenda item. Usually there are less than a handful of votes against proposals. In March 2018, when the NPC voted to abolish the president’s terms, allowing Xi to rule for life, there were 2,958 votes in favor and two against.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang will make his first appearance at the NPC since his appointment. According to the official Xinhua news agency, he will hold a press conference on March 7 on the 14th NPC with domestic and foreign reporters.
What’s on the agenda this year?
- Xi, who is already the General Secretary of the Communist Party, is expected to secure a third term as president during the 14th NPC.
- Li Qiang, the second most powerful person in the party and a protégé of Xi, will be confirmed as China’s new prime minister.
- Observers will also keep a close eye on party officials appointed to the State Council, Chinese cabinet, CPPCC and other party and state institutions.
- During the opening session, delegates will receive the “Government Work Report,” which sets economic and policy goals for the coming year and provides a forecast for gross domestic product (GDP).
- According to the state-run Global Times, Chinese economists expect a target of more than 5 percent for 2023. The world’s second-largest economy grew just three percent last year.
- “One of the things that is being watched the most is how China will set its growth target and relevant policies,” Guan Tao, the global chief economist at the Bank of China’s BOC International, told the Global Times. He thinks officials are likely to take a “more active tone” this year given the acceleration in economic activity since the zero-COVID strategy was abandoned in late 2022.
- The motions and proposals tabled by the delegates also include initiatives to address China’s low birth rate after the country reported a population decline for the first time in 60 years. Suggestions include removing the requirement to be legally married to register and give birth, and granting equal rights to children of unmarried parents.