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Two Sessions: China looks at reforms to deepen Xi Jinping control

Two Sessions: China looks at reforms to deepen Xi Jinping control

Xi Jinping is set to deepen his control of China’s government and economy, as lawmakers meet in Beijing to pass far-reaching reforms.

The National People’s Congress (NPC), a rubber-stamp parliament, will confirm Mr Xi’s third term as president, and the appointments of his top team.

They will also name a new premier, the second-in-command after Mr Xi, as the incumbent Li Keqiang departs.

The Two Sessions, as the meetings are known, are an annual affair.

But this year’s sessions are particularly significant as delegates are expected to reshape several key Communist Party and state institutions.

They will also tighten control over bodies overseeing the finance sector and scientific and technology work, while “strengthening party-building work” in private businesses, according to state media.

The moves will likely further blur the lines between the Chinese Communist Party and the government, and consolidate the party’s control of the private sector.

This comes amid an ongoing corruption crackdown which has seen a string of high-profile businessmen disappear in recent years. The latest person to go missing was one of China’s top dealmakers in the tech sector.

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China’s Two Sessions: The basics

  • The Two Sessions in Beijing are the annual meetings of China’s legislature and top political advisory body which attract thousands of representatives from across the country
  • The National People’s Congress is the country’s equivalent of a parliament that is, in theory, the most powerful state organ. In reality it acts as a rubber-stamp body for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, passing key laws on decisions that have already been made
  • The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which has no real legislative power, draws its members from various sectors of society. Their debates are worth noting for emerging social and economic issues
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This week’s NPC meeting will also formalise Mr Xi’s leadership of the country, as he will be elected president of China and head of the armed forces.

He secured his position in the echelons of Chinese power in October last year, when the Communist Party re-elected him as their leader for a third term.

It was a break from decades-long tradition, as no other party leader besides Communist China’s first leader, Mao Zedong, will have served for this long. In the 2018 NPC meeting, lawmakers had approved the removal of term limits on the presidency, effectively allowing Mr Xi to remain leader for life.

Mr Xi’s appointment comes as he faces domestic pressure to turn around an economy battered by his zero-Covid strategy and crackdowns in various business sectors.

At the start of the meeting, it was announced that China will pursue a reduced economic growth target of about 5% this year, while defence spending is to rise by more than 7%.

Abroad, Mr Xi is navigating worsening ties with the US over the Ukraine war and the recent spy balloon saga, even as he warms his embrace of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

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The NPC will also unveil the new Premier, China’s equivalent of a prime minister who traditionally oversees the economy and administrative aspects of governance.

Li Qiang, one of Mr Xi’s most trusted colleagues, is expected to assume the role. As the Shanghai party secretary, he oversaw a prolonged and painful Covid lockdown that angered locals and made international headlines.

Outgoing premier Li Keqiang, who was ousted in the leadership reshuffle at October’s party congress, will deliver his last work report speech.

The political appointments for the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee, the equivalent of Mr Xi’s cabinet, will also be announced.

Many will be watching to see who fills several key positions, such as the commerce minister, head of the national development and reform commission, propaganda chief, and head of state security.

Observers say the team was picked more for their loyalty to Mr Xi and the party, rather than for their expertise.

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