Two sessions offer important opportunity to understand China’s political structure

By George N. Tzogopoulos Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/2 19:43:39

If there is one issue on which political scientists in the West agree about China, it is that knowing more about this country is essential to having a better understanding of the world. This also had been the case in the past but now, it's even more significant due to Beijing's expanding international influence and growing economic power. However, foreign and economic policies cannot be fairly assessed without looking at domestic politics. In particular, the governance of China should be a subject that requires more attention.

China's political system is different from that of Western countries. This difference has led some Western scholars to reject the political modus operandi of China and write about the need for the country to change and imitate the Western model or the West to push it toward this direction. However, what matters more is not to employ unrealistic theories but to become accustomed to a specific reality and attempt to interpret it.

Within this framework, China's two sessions perhaps offer the most important tools to understand the Chinese political structure and thinking. Although analysts and people within the country are familiar with them, this is not necessarily the case with the Western audience, elite and public opinion.

With their long history of 63 and 68 years respectively, the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) determine major State issues, offer platforms for political consultations and review the government's work.

The agendas of the annual plenary sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC offer useful insights on what to expect domestically and internationally in the rest of the year. The economy is highly significant because China finds itself in a transition period, where it is attempting to successfully change its growth model. It is expected for the Chinese leadership to confirm the harmonious continuation of the "New Normal" process and project growth rates, vacillating between 6.5 and 7 percent.

However, it is certainly important for the Chinese leadership to discuss specific results of its economic policy which can calm international investors about the impact of the economy's relative slowdown. For example, recent data published by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of China shows that 13 million urban jobs were created in the last four years in spite of internal economic pressure. Innovation, reforms and education are the three pillars of the national effort to create sustainable jobs. This policy is also closely linked to the commitment of the Chinese government to eradicate poverty.

Moreover, it is natural for international spectators to be interested not only in the development of China's national economy but also in foreign investments to be made by Chinese companies in the future.

The NPC and CPPCC sessions can give a new boost to the "Belt and Road" initiative. According to the Ministry of Commerce, for instance, 177,000 jobs were created in countries in which the ancient Silk Road is revitalized. These countries expect their growth to be further boosted by Chinese companies as well as by banks such as the China Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.

Nevertheless, not every discussion about China should be exclusively linked to domestic and international economics. Some internal developments are also high on the agenda and will be discussed in the plenary sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC.

The fight against corruption will probably have the lion's share. This issue has garnered much criticism against China in the West. It has been a stereotype in the Western discourse that Chinese politics and corruption almost go hand-in-hand. But Chinese President Xi Jinping has been embarking on an attempt to locate and bring corrupt officials to justice. Progress has been impressive and also acknowledged by Western journalists.

It is, therefore, interesting to analyze what new measures will be adopted in the coming days. The Chinese government is keen on strengthening the supervision at the national and public level and also publicizing some corruption cases as fear-avoidance models.

This year's two sessions are different from the previous years, not because the agenda's gravitas is higher but because the general context is no longer the same. A few weeks ago British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said in a speech during her US visit a few hours before her meeting with US President Donald Trump that the West should refrain from remaking the world in its own image. This statement marks a departure from previous failed policies and reflects her respect of how other countries - such as China - work in politics.

The author is a lecturer at the European Institute in Nice, France. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion


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