Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
It is that time of the year again, when China's "two sessions" season is in full bloom. The two sessions refer, of course, to the annual plenary sessions of both the National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislative body, and also the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a national political advisory body. This is when China's major national policies are formally enacted, often in the form of laws and regulations, as China is making strides toward a society governed by the rule of law.
As in previous years, the influence of the two sessions extends not only to the average Chinese people, but also to many concerned parties around the world. This is because at the top of everybody's mind is undoubtedly the economy. China, being the world's second largest economy and the single most relevant global engine of growth, would obviously attract both domestic and international concerns as to how well its economy has been performing and is forecast to perform, as well as the economic measures that are to be adopted by the Chinese government to spur growth, for they will have profound ramifications on the global economy.
It is with these serious concerns in mind that the world perhaps sighed with some relief when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced in his NPC working report that China's growth target for this year is 6.5 percent.
Admittedly, to many Chinese, the number could have been higher as they are used to double-digit growth over the past decades. But, let us not forget that the growth projection of many advanced economies continues to linger at almost rock bottom since the global financial crisis a decade ago, with occasional upward movement of one or two percent already touted as good news. Although some other emerging economies registered even higher, almost at double-digit growth rates, that is mainly because the measure bases for these countries remain exceedingly low, much akin to the beginning of China's reforms and opening-up process. They are simply not on the same economic scale as China.
In addition, the international community would very much look forward to two major batches of policy commitments that hopefully will be enshrined in this year's two sessions. The first has to do with the more detailed implementations of the "deepening" of China's continuous reforms. The commanding role of the market in the running of domestic economy should be clarified. The respective weights to be imputed into State-owned versus privately held enterprises should be clearly spelled out. The additional domestic economic sectors to be opened up for foreign investments and ownership would be welcomed. More empowerment of regulatory bodies taming share-market and real-estate property speculations is crucial both to prevent the "bubbling" of a superficially overheated economy as well as to maintain social harmony and stability. And if further fiscal intervention is needed to jump start the Chinese economy, in which ways it could be channeled more effectively to address the potentially destabilizing wealth and income inequalities must not be neglected. In short, the international community would like to see the Chinese commit to doing at least a round of "spring house cleaning" to enable its long-term sustainable economic performance.
Another equally important batch of Chinese policy announcements during the two sessions that are anticipated by the international community would be China's renewal of its commitments to shoulder both the acceleration of global economic growth and the rejuvenation of the concept and practice of free trade. China's Belt and Road initiative has received very positive responses from neighboring countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia, as a regional development program. The China-inspired Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has also made its first lendings for construction of much needed infrastructure in the region. How China would intensify these foreign investment efforts would be of tremendous interests to the countries concerned.
On the other hand, American President Donald Trump's blunt renunciation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as well as his repeated declarations of "America First" have stoked global concerns about America's retreat into isolationism and with it, the viability of the whole concept of free trade. As many Southeast Asian countries predicate their economies on free trade, the expectation for China to redouble its effort to push for free trade is high. And such commitments during the two sessions will help restore regional confidence.
And confidence is indeed much sought after in the global economy.
The author is a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. email@example.com Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion