What to expect at this year’s two sessions

By Ei Sun Oh Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/4 21:23:40

It is that time of the year again when China's two sessions take place. The National People's Congress (NPC), as China's highest lawmaking body, will formally set the agenda for national development for the next year and beyond, with inputs from the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

As this is the first NPC session to be held after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, all eyes are on how the NPC will go about implementing the decisions of the Party Congress. And this year it takes primarily the form of constitutional amendments to update China's fundamental laws. For overseas observers, how China will fine-tune its system of running the country will have implications beyond its borders.

Over the past five years or so, China has been relentless in countering corruption and collusion at all levels of government and Party organization, with no tiger being too great to be spared, winning the applause both domestically and overseas as being long overdue. For example, countries around the world have been more than willing to work closely with the Chinese authorities both to apprehend and repatriate corrupt former Chinese officials as well as to seize and return the illicit properties that they surreptitiously accumulated overseas, lest such money laundering distorts the healthy functioning of worldwide financial markets.

So it comes as no surprise that the Party, in its proposal for constitutional amendments submitted to the NPC, called for the establishment of a national supervision commission that is supposed to be tasked with the comprehensive examination of the integrity and soundness of all State organs. If this is accepted and adopted by the NPC, we earnestly hope it could be expeditiously implemented and serve as a working role model for many other developing countries that are facing a similar sort of official improprieties.

Another bright spot in the slew of constitutional amendments to be considered is that of an insertion into the preamble of the promotion of not only material, political, spiritual and social advancement in Chinese society, but also ecological advancement. The many years of rapid industrialization that accompanied the overall peaceful rise of China came undeniably with the price of sometimes serious instances of environmental degradation, as amply testified by the at times severe air pollution in some Chinese cities. It is laudable that over the past five years or so, the Chinese authorities have taken very seriously an attempt to address this urgent concern, transforming old, energy-intensive industries into new ones employing renewable energy.

As the US is withdrawing from carbon-reduction commitments under the Paris climate accord, the incessant fight against the threat of global warming now falls squarely on the shoulder of China and other developing countries. Now that ecological concerns are to be enshrined in China's Constitution, we hope that China will redouble its efforts in addressing not only its own but also global environmental concerns.

As with many previous annual NPC sessions, the main focus of overseas observers falls undoubtedly on the economy, both China's as well as the world's. It is frankly unrealistic nowadays to expect the kind of spectacular, sometimes double-digit, growth both domestically and overseas of yesteryear. But even in a state of new normal economic growth, China has successfully switched the mainstay of its economy from one with a primary focus on quantitative expansion to a more value-added economy zeroing in on qualitative innovation. This is a lesson not lost on many other developing countries at their various developmental stages. We expect the NPC to continue to come up with measures to maintain China's steady economic growth. China is the world's second largest economy and the main source of international investment. This is also crucial for spurring growth of many neighboring countries, such as through enhanced trade facilitation and infrastructural connectivity under the Belt and Road initiative.

The US under the Trump administration increasingly withdrawing into protectionism and isolationism, the world expects even more from China, mainly in the form of providing urgently needed leadership in championing free trade. The recent imposition of high tariffs by the US administration on steel and aluminum products should not be met with retaliatory measures that will only hurt free trade more, but with resolute measures that serve to promote free-trade practices in the rest of the world, such as the speeding up of the negotiations toward a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The NPC session could provide the first glimpse into this innovative trade practice. The world awaits China bringing the free trade agenda back on track again.

The author is senior adviser for International Affairs, Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute & Centre for Public Policy Studies,Malaysia, and principal adviser, Pacific Research Center, Malaysia. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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