Udayavni Special

China to hold its parliament session in March to approve key plans

PTI, Dec 27, 2020, 4:15 PM IST

Beijing: China will hold its annual parliament session on March 5 next year to approve a host of key laws, including the 14th Five-Year Plan and President Xi Jinping’s ambitious long-range strategic developmental initiatives, according to an official announcement here on Saturday.

Every year, the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), comprising about 3,000 legislators, mostly from the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), holds the meeting in early March but it was postponed to May this year for the first time in its history due to the COVID-19 pandemic which emerged in Wuhan city in December last year and spread to the country and the rest of the world.

While COVID-19 cases continued to be reported in smaller numbers in different parts of the country, including Beijing, China brought the virus under control especially in Wuhan even as the rest of the world is still reeling under its impact.

Regarded as the rubber-stamp parliament for its routine approval of the proposals from the CPC, the NPC session is held for about two weeks along with the country’s advisory body, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Together they have about 6,000 deputies.

The NPC session sets off the national agenda for the year by approving Premier Li Keqiang’s work report.

Its main agenda for 2021 session included the adoption of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, which were already approved by the CPC.

Traditionally, the premier announces a new annual target of the GDP for the Chinese economy which continued on slowdown mode.

Last year, however, Li didn’t announce the GDP target, the first time since 1976. Li said he chose to skip it as China faced factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the world’s economic and trade environment.

During the NPC session, China also announces the annual defence budget for the world’s largest military of two-million personnel.

Last year, the NPC had approved about USD 179 billion defence budget, the second-highest after US defence spending of USD 732 billion.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) military expenditure figures, China defence spending in 2019 amounted to USD 232 billion.

A recent key conclave of the CPC has finalised plans to build a fully modern military on par with the US by 2027.

The plans were significant as Xi, who continues to consolidate his position as the most powerful leader after the CPC founder Mao Zedong with the prospects of a life-long tenure in power, said recently that China is set to change its development model in 2021, relying more on domestic consumption than export-reliant growth.

The export model pursued in the last four decades propelled China to become the world’s 2nd largest economy next only to the US.

“From next year on, China will embark on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country,” Xi, 67, who heads the CPC, the military and the presidency, said in November this year while addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Dialogue.

“We will foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other,” he said.

China’s status as a world’s factory has been affected by declining global markets and US President Donald Trump’s trade war and his move to ban Chinese tech firms like Huawei and TikTok.

The US also clamped restrictions on exports to semiconductor chips to China, deepening the technology conflict between the top two world economies.

China expects that hostility with the US will continue under President-elect Joe Bidden tenure as well though Chinese experts expect some buffering period.

The NPC session is also expected to examine the report on the implementation of the central and local budgets for 2020, and the draft central and local budgets for 2021, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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