In an exclusive co-operation with People’s Daily,
chinaandgreece.com provides information on the two sessions are the two annual plenary meeings of NPC and CPPCC, namely the Chinese top legislative body the National People’s Congress and the Chinese top political advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Beijing: Since February 25, the number of searches for “two sessions” surpassed that of “Spring Festival rush.” The terms “economic new normal” was the most-searched keyword a week before this year’s two sessions, data revealed, a sign that China’s economic future is among the top issues concerning the general public.
Following government action fighting “tigers” and “flies” in China’s anti-graft campaign, how to combat corruption in accordance with the law and create a systematic anti-corruption framework have also raised concerns.
For the second year in a row, “housing security” made the top three. “Accumulation fund” and “economically affordable housing” are also hot search items, as well as “environmental protection.”
3 March 2015, Beijing,
People’s Daily commentaries lay out Party’s flagship roadmap
People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has published a series of front-page commentaries since Wednesday, elucidating the Party’s strategic roadmap laid out after the first plenary session of the 18th National Congress of the CPC. China Central Television also ran those commentaries on the prime-time news program.
14 graft-tainted national political advisors down
A total of 14 national political advisors were disqualified due to corruption, said Yu Zhengsheng, China’s top political advisor on Tuesday. They include two vice chairmen of the CPPCC National Committee, Ling Jihua and Su Rong, who have been suspected of corruption.
Ling, under investigation for suspected corruption, was removed from the post of National Committee vice chairman, and also stripped of his CPPCC membership in a CPPCC meeting last month. Su is now being investigated by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate over allegations of accepting huge bribes for promoting his inferiors, among others.
“This has been a warning for us to improve the integrity of our members and continue fighting corruption,” Yu said. Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to target high-ranking “tigers” as well as low-ranking “flies” in his anti-corruption drive since the new leadership took office in 2013.
At a press conference on Monday, Lu Xinhua, spokesman for this year’s CPPCC National Committee, said that the cases have affected the image of the CPPCC, though most of their violations did not occur during their tenure as leading national political advisors.
He said that China’s anti-corruption effort “has no limit or ceiling” and “no one has impunity.”
Two sessions to focus on growth: ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative will bring new opportunities
Editor’s Note: China’s annual legislative and political consultative sessions – more commonly known as the “two sessions” – are set to kick off on Tuesday. With a variety of issues set for debate during the two sessions, those revolving around the Chinese economy will surely be among the hottest topics. The Global Times has put together a rough outline of two most-talked about subjects about the economy, as a guide to the forthcoming discussions at the sessions.
A focus on growth targets
Having missed its official growth target of 7.5 percent in 2014, for the first time since 1998, the Chinese economy started the year on a weak note, with a slew of economic indicators for the first two months suggesting sustained downward pressure on the economy. Now all the eyes are on the disclosure of the 2015 GDP growth target, which will be made available in Premier Li Keqiang‘s government work report to be delivered at the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC) session on Thursday.
It is widely believed that the official growth target for 2015 will be set at below 7.5 percent, although predictions vary as to the extent. Representing the majority view of market watchers, Xu Hongcai, director of the Department of Information under the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), a Beijing-based think tank, told the Global Times on Monday that the GDP growth target is likely to come in at between 7.1 percent and 7.2 percent.
“That would still be a satisfactory growth figure,” he said, noting that an annual GDP growth rate of below 7 percent is unlikely.
The State Information Center, a government think tank, estimated in a report that China’s economy would grow 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.
Private entrepreneurs also dismiss excessive fears of a cooling economy amid a “new normal” of slower, yet higher quality growth.
“The increase in China’s economic size, which is already quite large, is set to naturally moderate, which should not be of great concern,” Zong Qinghou, a beverage mogul and an NPC deputy, told the Global Times on Monday.
Remarking that the recovery of the world economy hinges on China’s economic growth, Zong, founder and chairman of Chinese drinks behemoth Hangzhou Wahaha Group, said China needs to focus on boosting domestic demand, which would help the economy regain steam.
A flurry of reform measures pushed by the current leadership have provided more room for revitalizing the economy, he noted.
‘One Belt and One Road’
While China’s economy faces downturn pressures, the “One Belt and One Road” initiative is expected to bring new growth opportunities, experts have said. Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out the vision for the initiative during his visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013. The “One Belt and One Road” term refers to efforts to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The Belt will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, while the Road will connect China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe. Together the two will draw the regions involved into a global partnership. However, the initiative has been misunderstood by some foreign scholars and media reports as the Chinese version of the Marshall Plan, a US-sponsored assistance program that helped reset the European economy after World War II.
Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the ongoing Third Plenary Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told a news conference on Monday that it is inappropriate to describe the initiative as another Marshall Plan. “The Marshall Plan, which occurred against a specific historical background, had political purposes with many conditions attached; the ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative, however, pursues common development of countries with different ethnicities, religions and cultures,” Lü told a press conference on Monday.
Xu from CCIEE expected that more specific details would be unveiled on the “One Belt and One Road” initiative following the two sessions.
President Xi also announced in November 2014 the creation of a $40 billion Silk Road Fund to support the development of the “One Belt and One Road” initiative.
The fund, which is designed to improve trade and transport links in Asia, is now active and will seek investment opportunities and provide monetary services through the Belt and Road initiative, China’s central bank said on February 23.
To connect these areas requires infrastructure construction, including railways, which will stimulate China’s economy and create new jobs, according to Xu.
Together with China’s ongoing urbanization and plans to expand free trade zones, the “One Belt and One Road” initiative can help China’s industrial restructuring and create economic growth, Xu noted.
Roadmap to change
Reform has been a catchphrase of the political life of China since the late 1970s, which, along with the opening up policy, created decades of unprecedented economic and social development. This year is seen as a crucial year for comprehensively deepening reform in the political, social and economic spheres and preparing a roadmap of reforms for the years to come.The upcoming “two sessions” is expected to highlight further reform policies in both Premier Li Keqiang’s government report and proposals put forth by deputies.
A wide range of issues, such as administrative reform, and shifting the role of government from control to service, are expected to be discussed during the meetings and on the sidelines of the two sessions, with policy changes aiming to involve grass-roots organizations and the people in the reforms.
Under the current government, previous years have seen innovative reforms such as the establishment of the Shanghai free trade zone, and the abolishment of hundreds of government approvals previously required for civil and economic activities. The rule of law, highlighted during a 2014 Party congress, will be further elaborated and implemented this year as a principle of governance.
Faced with increasing demand for social reforms, policymakers are engaging with the task of expanding social equality to create fairer access to education, medical care, pension and other social welfare for the general public. How to gradually loosen the household registration control, or the hukou system, and provide equal opportunities to non-local residents in the face of urbanization and population flow, is an area that will affect hundreds of millions of people.
With China’s economy headed towards a soft landing, the sweeping reforms are also designed to bolster the economic “new normal,” sacrifice the pursuit of specific growth figures to move towards a more technologically advanced economy that can better protect the environment.
China’s anti-graft campaign kicked off to a high-profile start in December 2012 following the announcement of a probe into Li Chuncheng, former deputy Party chief of Sichuan Province. During the past two years the sweeping campaign has reshaped the country’s political and social dynamics, while penetrating into ordinary people’s lives.
As of February, over 70 officials of provincial or above levels have been investigated or prosecuted, crowned by the investigation of former security chief Zhou Yongkang. According to public reports, the number makes up nearly one-third of all investigated senior officials since the republic was founded in 1949.”No exceptions” is a crucial factor of the anti-graft campaign, demonstrated by the large number of toppled officials and unprecedentedly senior targets. The leadership has further showed its determination by extending the campaign into almost all vital sectors, including the military, energy, finance, State-owned assets, as well as media and sports.
Beginning with individual cases, disciplinary watchdogs have gradually woven a net by mapping out heavily corrupt regions and cohorts, including the power networks of Zhou, and cliques in regions such as Shanxi and Sichuan provinces. Cracking down on these groups has become an effective remedy to the damage to justice and order caused by such chains of interests, which rely heavily on nepotism and under-the-table dealings.
As a key practice of rule of law, it is anticipated that specific anti-graft legislation will be discussed at the upcoming “two sessions.” After establishing a new anti-graft bureau last year, China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate stated on February 21 that it will push for the legislation, signaling that the endeavor will be expedited.
Observers have said that the anti-graft law should focus on setting clear rules to define boundaries of public power. It should also integrate the fragmented legal framework governing Party discipline, the Criminal Law and other related laws to punishing the corrupt, pushing what is currently a case-by-case way of investigating onto a more systematic legal track. Analysts have also suggested that transparency in the investigation and trial processes should also be improved to secure the rights of the probed officials and the public’s right to know.
At the start of the “two sessions,” Premier Li Keqiang will deliver a government work report highlighting a slew of key economic targets for the year. Among the most closely watched are the yearly GDP growth target, which is widely forecast to be lower than last year’s 7.5 percent, mirroring the “new normal” of slower but higher quality growth.
In January, it was reported that China’s economy expanded at 7.4 percent in 2014, the slowest expansion in 24 years and missing the official target for the first time since 1998. Forecasts for this year’s growth target vary among economists and experts, but a commonly held view is that it might remain soft well into 2015. The World Bank said in late October while releasing its thrice-yearly review of the Chinese economy that growth target could be cut to 7 percent this year, part of a set of reform plans devised to rebalance the economy.
Saying that reforms are set to better serve the economy, Jing Ulrich, managing director and vice chairman of Asia Pacific at investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co noted in late January that the Chinese economy is expected to maintain steady growth for the year. She predicted that the economy will grow at 7.2 percent in 2015, buttressed by a set of reform efforts ranging from finance to taxation, to the State-owned sector pushed by the government.
There is also a more pessimistic outlook for the growth landscape, with Beijing-based research group Unirule Institute of Economics, a private think tank, releasing a research report in late January saying that growth may bottom out at around 6.8 percent for 2015, citing downside risks to investment.
The downward pressure on the economy from the cooling property market was also mentioned by UBS economists Wang Tao and Zhang Ning in a research note e-mailed to the Global Times earlier in February.
The economists estimate that infrastructure investment may further decline in the first quarter of 2015, which, coupled with a slowdown in property construction, is likely to result in reduced momentum for the already-cooling economy. Nonetheless, policy uncertainties could be allayed after the conclusion of the annual two sessions, helping to drive a rebound in GDP growth in the next two quarters, they remarked.
In 2013 during his visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out a vision for “One Belt and One Road,” referring to initiatives to build a Silk Road economic belt and a 21st century maritime Silk Road.
The “One Belt and One Road” represents for China and the outside world a prime opportunity to build cooperation. The Belt will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia while the Road will connect China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe. “It serves more as a roadmap for Chinese investments to go global and for China to forge a global partnership network.” Zhao Minghao, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute, a Chinese foreign-policy think tank, told the Global Times.
The “One Belt and One Road” signals a recalibration of both China’s internal and external policies. It aims to propel an open economic system within the country while further integrating China into the world economy and deepening cooperation with the outside world, especially in terms of building infrastructure and other development projects.
Xi announced the creation of a $40 billion Silk Road Fund to support the development of the “One Belt and One Road” on November 8 at a dialogue meeting on strengthening connectivity and improving cooperation in the country’s neighborhood. The fund is designed to improve trade and transport links in Asia and was established on December 29. According to a statement by the People’s Bank of China on Monday, the Fund is now active, and will “seek investment opportunities and provide monetary services throughout the Belt and Road Initiatives.”
Since Xi proposed the “One Belt and One Road” initiative, how to best push forward the initiative has aroused heated discussions at home and abroad. The initiative is expected to be one of the focal points in the “two sessions.”
“After over two years of planning, collecting and analyzing public reactions and refinement, first-phase preparations have been finished. How the blueprint will be implemented is anticipated to be laid out in this year’s government work report, which will be delivered during the two sessions,” Zhao said.
The third annual session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, will open on March 5. The third session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will open on March 3. Both meetings will be held in Beijing.
National People’s Congress (NPC)
The NPC is the country’s top legislature, which generally meets once a year. NPC motions become legally binding when they are adopted. The NPC exercises legislative power, amends the Constitution and supervises its enforcement, formulates and amends basic statutes and other laws; elects and decides on the leading personnel of State-level administrative, judicial, procuratorial and military bodies, and has the right to recall them; supervises government work in accordance with the Constitution and laws; and examines and decides on the fundamental, long-term and key issues of the State. Deputies to the NPC are members of the highest organ of State, which also have the right to recall any deputies they have elected. The NPC Standing Committee, the permanent organ of the NPC, is elected by the NPC and exercises the legislative power of the State together with the NPC.
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
The CPPCC, China’s top political advisory body, consists of representatives of the CPC and non-Communist parties, personages without party affiliation, and representatives of people’s organizations, ethnic minorities and various social strata. The annual session of CPPCC National Committee is the nation’s highest arena for political consultation. The CPPCC is held every year in March, concurrent with the NPC annual meeting. The two major political meetings are called the “two sessions” in China.
What to expect
One of the highlights of the “two sessions” is typically the premier’s report on the government’s work. Premier Li Keqiang will also hold a press conference. Owing to China’s ongoing anti-graft efforts, reports from the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate will be worthy of attention as well. NPC and CPPCC’s reports will review the two bodies’ work during 2014, with press conferences for the two hotly anticipated.
This year both local and national “two sessions” will focus on reducing GDP targets, deepening reform, the rule of law, fighting smog, public services, China’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative, and building free trade zones.
China eyes quality economy in 2015
By Liu Zhiqiang, People’s Daily
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in the government work report on Thursday that China aims at a growth of 7 percent in 2015, while emphasizing stable growth and economic restructuring.
After that, Xu Shaoshi, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), described the 2014 economic performance as “encountering more difficulties than expected, while achieving better than expected results.” Xu said the economy in 2015 may be slower but will keep the growing momentum, and the quality and efficiency will be enhanced in the meantime.
A department under the State Council, the NDRC is in charge of drafting and organizing long-term economic and social development strategies and yearly plans, and exercising macro-economic management.
Xu said the world economic situation was grim and complicated in 2014, while the downward pressure had existed in China the entire year. However, China managed to keep a stable growth, stable prices and stable employment. There were also new breakthroughs in reform and opening-up, new highlights in structural adjustment, as well as new improvement in people’s well-beings.
China reported a growth of 7.4 percent in 2014, the lowest in recent years. However, we should look at the situation from a developing and comprehensive point of view, Xu argued. The 7.4 percent growth is within a reasonable range, close to the planned target of about 7.5 percent. It is still one of the fastest growth rate, Xu said.
The volume of the economy is getting bigger and the quality of the economic growth has increased, which is reflected in the greater performance in service industry than manufacturing, and the greater contribution from consumption than from investment, Xu added.
Looking at the economic outlook in 2015, the NDRC head said although the domestic and international economies still face great pressure, China’s economy has great resilience, potential and strong foundations. As new industries gain momentum, there is greater space for economic adjustment.
“We are confident that we have the ability to keep the economic momentum despite of slowdown, while raising quality and efficiency,” Xu said.
China’s “Belt and Road initiatives” are not a “solo,” but “symphony” of all relevant parties, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday 8 March 2015 at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature. The vision of the initiatives is common development, and their goal mutual benefit through cooperation. “If I may use a musical metaphor, the initiatives are not China’s solo, but a symphony performed by all relevant countries,” Wang said.
In advancing the initiatives, China will act according to the principle of “wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,” he said. “We will carry out equal-footed consultation and respect the choice of other countries.” China will be sensitive to other parties, ensure transparency and openness, align the initiatives with the development strategies of other parties, and create synergy with existing regional cooperation mechanisms, he said.
“Belt and Road” refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives proposed by China in 2013 for improved cooperation with countries in a vast part of Asia, Europe and Africa.
FM tackles China’s diplomacy focus in 2015
“The keyword for China’s diplomacy in 2015 will be one focus and two main themes,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference on the sideline of the annual session of the 12th National People’s Congress in Beijing. One Focus is the “Belt and Road” initiatives. Wang said China will further enhance communication with other countries, expand the convergence of shared interests and explore possible areas for further win-win cooperation. He elaborated that the priorities will be promoting connectivity, building overland economic corridors and pillars of maritime cooperation, he said.
China will also improve cultural and people-to-people exchanges and speed up talks of free trade areas with relevant countries. “Two Main Themes” will be peace and development, the minister noted. This year, China will work with the international community to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the World Anti-Fascist War and make itself a strong force for peace by learning lessons from the past and looking towards the future. Wang said China will also take an active part in the UN development summit and international cooperation on climate change.
Summing up the diplomatic progress in 2014, Wang said it is worth mentioning that China focused on building a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation and has taken a new path of external relations characterized by partnership rather than alliance. “We have basically established a global network of partnerships,” he said. “China’s circle of friends and partners has widened and will continue to expand.”
By 2014, China had established different forms of partnership with more than 70 countries and many regional organizations. Wang described 2014 as one of harvest, forging ahead and breaking ground.