Category Archives: National People’s Congress

“China and the Unofficial Truth”

Evan Osnos has a funny-ish piece about Chinese netizens watching the opulence on display at the NPC and NPCC:

While Premier Wen Jiabao was pledging that the government would “quickly” reverse the widening gap between rich and poor—last year he said it would do so “gradually”—Chinese Web users were scrutinizing photos of delegates arriving for the meeting, and posting photos of their nine-hundred dollar Hermès belts and Birkin and Celine and Louis Vuitton purses that retail for car prices. As Danwei points out, an image that has been making the rounds with particular relish shows the C.E.O. of China Power International Development Ltd, Li Xiaolin, in a salmon-colored suit from Emilio Pucci’s spring-summer 2012 collection—price: nearly two thousand dollars. Web user Cairangduoji paired her photo with the image of dirt-covered barefoot kids in the countryside and the comment: “That amount could help two hundred children wear warm clothes, and avoid the chilly attacks of winter.” And it appended a quote from Li, of the salmon suit, who purportedly once said, “I think we should open a morality file on all citizens to control everyone and give them a ‘sense of shame.’” (This is no ordinary delegate: Li Xiaolin happens to be the daughter of former Premier Li Peng, who oversaw the crackdown at Tiananmen Square.)

Another message making the rounds uses an official high-res photo of the gathering to zoom in on delegates who were captured fast asleep or typing on their smart phones. (h/t ChinaSmack.) A separate message provides instructions on how to be a good delegate: “After you eat, remember to go to the Great Hall to clap! Raise your hands! Clap! Raise your hands! Clap! Raise your hands!” And yet another message going around involves high political stakes: a property developer and conference delegate named Zhang Mingyu was using Weibo to send out calls for help, saying that Chongqing police had raided his Beijing apartment and were planning to detain him for earlier announcing (online, of course) that he planned to tweet juicy new information about a politics/corruption/mafia/police story in the big city of Chongqing. Got that straight?

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Filed under Communist Party, inequality, National People's Congress

“Reform in the Air in Beijing”

A slightly misleading title, as the article itself is far more ambiguous on the subject. Gordon Chang on the two conferences, leadership change, and political reform:

This time, the handover from one set of leaders to the next is provoking real debate among party luminaries because there is a sense that things must change in the country. So it is not only the wholesale turnover in party leadership that is consuming the assembled deputies. There is now talk of fundamental reform, political as well as economic.

There is always great hope, both inside and outside the People’s Republic, when new leaders take over in Beijing, and now, with the need for change apparent, many are beginning to think that Xi Jinping, slated to replace Hu Jintao as general secretary, and Li Keqiang, tapped to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao, will actually move the country in the right direction. As Wang Xiangwei, the new editor of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, reports, “Already there is positive chatter that both Xi and Li are bona fide reformists, unlike Hu and Wen, who have continually spoken of reforms but failed to manage any significant breakthroughs during their 10-year reigns.”

There are a dozen reasons why analysts think that Xi will sponsor change once he takes over after the First Plenum: his father was a reformer, members of Xi’s Princeling faction are bolder than the technocrats, new Chinese leaders always try to clean house if they can. All this makes sense, but there are also a hundred reasons why Xi will act to protect the status quo: Xi is close to conservative generals, he will protect the business interests of fellow Princelings, he will need years to consolidate his political base among the hard-liners controlling Beijing.

In truth, we do not know what Xi really thinks or how he will exercise power, should he in fact take over the Communist Party this fall. Yet among the NPC deputies now in the Chinese capital, there is a sense of anticipation that his rule will see great change. And the desire for change is the one precondition for progress.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, National People's Congress, political reform

“What makes a rubber stamp?”

The Economist on the National People’s Congress:

Yet many in China take the term as an insult, feeling that it belittles the institutions and procedures by which the nation makes its laws.

Not long after the close of the 2010 NPC, your correspondent moderated a panel at Beijing’s Renmin University, where one of the panellists veered off topic to criticise western media for their biased coverage of China. The panellist, Yang Rui, a popular and often truculent host of a political talk show on state-run China Central Television (CCTV), said he found the “rubber-stamp” comparison particularly galling. When, he asked, would the foreign media finally stop using the term “rubber-stamp” to describe China’s parliament?

The answer to that question should be obvious: when it finally rejects something put before it.

In 1992, the NPC caused something of a stir when only 1,767 delegates, two-thirds of the total, voted to approve the massive and massively controversial Three Gorges Dam project. There were 177 votes against, 644 votes to abstain, and 25 delegates who failed to vote at all.

In other cases where reports or candidates are approved by less than 75%, it is seen as a clear rebuke to the leadership.

None of this is to say that the NPC is entirely irrelevant. In important ways, the NPC—as an institution—has become more interesting than its ritual-laden yearly sessions would indicate. Its full-time professional staff has grown in size and professionalism. In the course of drafting legislation, it has taken great strides in reaching out to social stakeholders and soliciting their input. Often it even pushes back against the Communist party leadership by insisting on substantial revisions to draft laws before moving them along.

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