China’s top political advisory body starts annual session

BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) — China’s top political advisory body convened its annual meeting Thursday, kicking off a political high season that will continue with the opening of the country’s top legislature later this week.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, opened the session at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

In a dark suit and a red tie, Yu commended the political advisory body’s work last year in helping formulate the 13th Five-Year Plan, comprehensively deepen reforms and advance law-based governance, improve people’s well-being, promote ethnic unity and religious harmony, and develop a favorable external environment for China’s development.

Special consultative meeting revolving around issues, such as reform of the government’s review and approval system and judicial structural reform, were held, while suggestions on a number of draft legislation and regulations, including the environmental protection tax law and the marine environmental protection law, were offered, Yu noted.

The CPPCC is an organization in the patriotic united front of the Chinese people, an important organ for multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and an important means of promoting socialist democracy in China’s political activities.

The main functions of the CPPCC are to conduct political consultation, exercise democratic supervision and participate in the discussion and the handling of state affairs.

Yu noted that the advisory body’s political consultations were made more fruitful last year while democratic oversight was strengthened, he said.

In particular, CPPCC National Committee members improved supervision over issues of wide public concerns such as investment approval system reforms and pollution control in northwest China’s Tengger Desert.

Their suggestions, criticisms and supervision helped improve authorities’ work to address those problems and the introduction of relevant policies, he added.

Thursday’s CPPCC session marks the start of the most important two weeks on China’s political calendar this year. The National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature, is set to begin its annual session Saturday.

Together dubbed colloquially as the “two sessions,” the dual meetings make regular yet crucial venues where political and economic developments are reviewed and discussed and key policies adopted.

This year, lawmakers are set to deliberate on a draft charity law aimed at boosting more public trust into the cause.

But it is on the economic front where the “two sessions,” closely watched by observers both at home and abroad, are granted extra heavy footing. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will reveal the nation’s gross domestic product target this year in his government work report.

The draft 13th Five-Year Plan, a roadmap for the nation’s development from 2016 to 2020, will also be submitted to NPC lawmakers for review and approval.

At a time of slowing global economic recovery and considerable uncertainty in financial markets, people around the world will be combing through the two documents line-by-line the moments they come out to find various nuances of policy development.

China’s economy, long a reliable source of growth, expanded 6.9 percent year on year in 2015, the slowest rate in 25 years, weighed down by a property market downturn, falling trade and weak factory activities.

In his report, Yu pointed to the “supply-side reform” — a popular notion that includes reducing ineffective and low-end supply championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping — and to a new set of development philosophy as policy options at hand to respond to the slowing economy.

The CPPCC should “develop and follow the philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development,” and adapt to the new normal in economic development, the top political advisor said.

Achievements aside, Yu also admitted that there are still room for for improvement for the CPPCC’s work.

“Its investigations and research into key issues need to be more thorough, its mechanisms for democratic oversight need to be improved, its work on promoting unity and friendship needs to be expanded both in scope and in depth, and National Committee members need to do better in the performance of their duties,” Yu said.

Political advisors come from China’s various walks of life and ethnic groups. They often serve as the think-tank for the government, legislative and judicial organs, and put forward proposals on major political and social issues in the world’s most populous nation and second-largest economy.

The proposals are sometimes considered a rough barometer of public opinion, signaling issues of concern from industrial policy to domestic violence, and telegraph the general national agenda for the whole year and beyond.

A separate report presented at Thursday’s meeting showed about one third of over 6,000 proposals submitted by political advisors in 2015 centered on economic issues.

Yu Zhengsheng meanwhile urged advisors to devote their main efforts this year to making suggestions and proposals related to the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan, and raise the quality of their research and studies.

He also called on political advisors to uphold the leadership of the CPC, which is “the leadership core of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and of the patriotic united front.”


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