Source: Global Times Published: 2019-3-1
As thousands of Chinese lawmakers and political advisors start to arrive in Beijing for the annual legislative and political consultative sessions, the most important political event in the country, there will be major tasks to be fulfilled and abundant issues to be discussed.
Apart from standard orders of business - reviewing work reports from top government branches and setting the national budget for the year - they are expected to pass or introduce legislation and proposals covering topics such as environment policies and poverty alleviation efforts.
In the wake of profound challenges in the economy, however, economic topics will likely take center stage, with at least one key piece of legislation and numerous proposals expected, observers said.
The 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, and the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislative body, are slated to kick off their annual meetings - collectively known as the two sessions - on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.
At the two sessions, nearly 3,000 NPC deputies, consisting of government officials, ordinary workers and others, and more than 2,000 CPPCC National Committee members representing various fields will have their chance to weigh in on the government's performance over the past year and policy directions for the new year.
"Economic topics are usually the hottest topics during the two sessions each year, but given the tremendous internal and external challenge we face, there will be even greater focus on economic policies this year," Li Daxiao, chief economist at Shenzhen-based Yingda Securities, told the Global Times on Friday.
The backdrop of this year's two sessions reveals challenges, as the economy faces persistent downward pressure and a deteriorating international environment marked by a costly trade war with the US. In 2018, the Chinese economy grew 6.6 percent year-on-year, the slowest pace in 28 years. And there are even tougher issues regarding jobs and private companies.
"I think the hottest topic will be the business environment for private companies," Wang Jun, an expert at the China Center for International Economic Exchange, told the Global Times on Friday. "It is an issue that has attracted a great deal of debate in the past year and touches on deeper, broader issues in the country from employment to the reform of state-owned enterprises."
Amid the adversity, an uneasy debate about the role of the private sector in the economy and society broke out last year, prompting reassurance from top leadership that the government cares and supports the private sector.
"We will probably see more assurances and even specific measures to help private companies," Li said.
The trade war with the US is also likely to attract a lot of attention at this year's two sessions, the first since the US launched the tit-for-tat tariff war last year.
Although tensions between China and the US have been easing after several rounds of negotiations, "there is still great uncertainty, so there will be much discussion about how to deal with that," said Liu Ying, a research fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
"I think the most important topic will be how to stabilize growth," Liu told the Global Times.
"Without stable growth, all the other topics such as financial reform are not immediately relevant," Li noted.
Through numerous meetings and policy directives prior to the two sessions, Chinese officials have made clear that they will focus on stabilizing growth this year, while also pursuing structural reforms and further opening-up.
China will work to ensure stability in jobs, financial markets, foreign trade, foreign investment, and improve conditions for the private sector and foreign companies, according to a statement from the Central Economic Work Conference in December.
The annual Government Work Report, which is scheduled to be delivered by Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday, will also further highlight the government's plan to stabilize overall growth, while tackling specific issues. The report is also expected to set a lower target for GDP growth this year which is likely to be between 6 to 6.5 percent, analysts said.
"The broad direction is set, but how specifically we can move forward still needs much work," Liu said.
And that's where the NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members come in, according to Wang. "A very important purpose of the two sessions is to draw on the collective wisdom of the representatives of the country and come up with a better plan," he said.
While the government has taken a slew of measures to stabilize growth, including adopting more proactive fiscal policies to increase spending, prudent but more flexible monetary policies to ensure sufficient liquidity, measures to cut taxes and reduce burden on companies, expand access for foreign companies, the representatives will also weigh these policies, Wang said.
NPC deputies will vote on a draft law on foreign investment, which if passed, will ensure greater market access to foreign companies and provide equal protection.
"This could be one of the most significant legislative efforts from this year's two sessions," Li said.
Liu Ying is a research fellow of Chongyang Institute for Fianncial Studies at Renmin University of China.