National People’s Congress: Chinese Leaders Rally Amid Economic Difficulties and War in Ukraine | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW

The annual meeting of China’s rubber stamp parliament will kick off this Saturday, bringing together around 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) to discuss important issues such as setting GDP targets and presenting the economic plan for China. year ahead, while celebrating the government’s accomplishments over the past year.

This year’s meeting is overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a slowing Chinese economy and a slowing real estate market. However, experts still expect China’s top legislature to focus on economic and social issues throughout the meetings.

“NPC meetings focus more on economic, social and livelihood issues,” said Wang Hsin-Hsien, a professor at the University Institute of East Asian Studies at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in China. Taiwan.

“Other international issues, including those involving Hong Kong and Taiwan, will be discussed less at these meetings. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will focus more on what it has been doing over the past year and on what he will do in the coming year.”

Focus on national issues

As China comes under increasing international scrutiny over its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wang said the topic would only be briefly discussed at official meetings of the APN.

On Taiwan issues, Wang thinks Beijing is likely to stick to the guidelines he championed in January, which focus on using a combination of military intimidation, delivering social and economic benefits to the nation. Taiwanese people, as well as propaganda efforts to promote “unification”. ” and dissuade the so-called separatist forces.

“There won’t be many details about Taiwan during the NPC, as I expect Beijing to save major Taiwan-related policy announcements for the 20th Party Congress in the fall,” he said. he adds.

Much of the NPC’s agenda remains unknown until during or after the weeklong meeting. Many sessions will be held behind closed doors. This year’s NPC is shortened from the usual two weeks to one week and will be held under strict pandemic control measures.

The NPC works alongside the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body composed of people from various fields such as arts, business and law, as well as party delegates. Together they are known as “Two Sessions”.

What will be China’s GDP target for 2022?

Chinese lawmakers will release the country’s latest economic targets and fiscal spending plans.

According to Chinese state media world timesGDP growth and investment will be at the heart of the agenda.

China’s economic expansion slowed to 4% in the last three months of 2021, despite starting the year with 18.3% growth in the first quarter of 2021.

The economy has been hurt by both the current downturn in the housing market and a manufacturing sector troubled by China’s strict “zero-COVID” strategies, including severe lockdowns and strict border controls.

Iris Pang, ING Group’s chief economist for Greater China, estimates that China’s GDP growth target for 2022 could be around 6%.

It’s important for China to set a GDP target because it serves as a guide for businesses, she told DW. “Without this guidance, entities in the economy could lose their focus.”

“Common Prosperity” to dominate the NPC

One topic that has generated a lot of discussion on Chinese social media is the “common prosperity” policy, which the Chinese authorities have been promoting and implementing since last year.

The policy has cost some of China’s biggest companies billions of dollars in recent months.

Yet Chinese President Xi Jinping has insisted there is a need to narrow the growing wealth gap in society.

“We will first enlarge the pie, then divide it properly through reasonable institutional arrangements. As a rising tide lifts all boats, everyone will receive a fair share of development, and development gains will benefit to all our peoples in a more substantial and equitable way,” Xi said during a speech at the World Economic Forum in January 2022.

Wu Qiang, political analyst and former senior lecturer at Tsinghua University, said common prosperity will dominate this year’s NPC.

“So far, Beijing’s policy execution seems to focus on two aspects: suppressing the super-rich and expanding the middle-income class. However, it is still unclear how the government wants to achieve the goal of ‘expand the middle-income class,’ he says.

“There are no clear guidelines on the implementation of the policy, so a key area to watch is whether the details proposed by the government during the NPC can meet the demands of the middle class,” he added.

Paving the way for Xi Jinping’s third term

The NPC is the biggest event on China’s political calendar ahead of a two-decade party congress later this year.

Xi will likely use the event to build support ahead of congress, where he is likely to land an unprecedented third term as president.

China’s legislature abolished a term limit on the presidency in 2018, clearing the way for Xi to retain power indefinitely.

“All the legislative planning and policy recommendations made during the NPC are all going to play a role in Xi’s pursuit of his third term,” Wu said.

Taiwanese scholar Wang pointed out that Xi’s likely third term will serve as an important backdrop for this year’s NPC, as it is part of a series of major political events over the past year aimed at consolidate Xi’s power in China.

“From the 100th anniversary of the CPC, the sixth plenary session in November 2021, to the Winter Olympics and the NPC this year, it is a series of major political tasks to ensure the smooth conduct of the 20th Party Congress. and Xi’s re-election,” he said. underline.

To highlight the success and superiority of China’s governance model, Wang said Beijing will use the NPC to highlight the success of its “zero COVID” policy.

“I think China will continue to stress the importance of the ‘dynamic zero COVID policy’ because it is a model that it believes reflects China’s superiority over Western countries,” he said. .

As to whether China will consider a transition from zero COVID to “coexisting with the virus,” Wang believes that won’t happen until after the party congress in the fall. “Since the Party Congress is an important political event this year, China will not announce any plans for coexisting with the virus before then, as it cannot afford any mistakes until then.”

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru

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