What Africa Can Expect from China’s Annual “Two Sessions”?
By Zhou Pingjian
Beginning in every March, China’s mainstream media buzz around one word: Lianghui, or the “two sessions” if we translate it into English. The two sessions refers to the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. As China’s most important annual political events, the two sessions are an important window for foreign friends to observe China and its politics.
What are NPC and CPPCC?
The system of people’s congresses is the fundamental political system of China. The Constitution of China prescribes that all power of the state belongs to the people. The National People’s Congress and local people’s congresses at all levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. According to the Constitution, the NPC exercises more than a dozen functions and powers, including formulating and revising the Constitution and supervising its implementation; enacting and revising basic laws and other laws of the state; electing the president and vice president of China, president of the Supreme People’s Court and procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procurator ate; examining and approving the plan for national economic and social development, the state budget and the report on its implementation, etc.
The CPPCC National Committee is China’s top political advisory body. It is composed of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), other political parties, mass organizations, different ethnic groups and representative public personages from all walks of life, representatives of compatriots of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as well as of returned overseas Chinese and other specially invited people. The system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC is a basic political system in China. China is a country of many ethnic groups and many political parties. Before the state adopts important measures or makes decisions on issues having a bearing on the national economy and the people’s livelihood, full consultation among representative figures from different quarters is conducted in order to strengthen the unity and cooperation, so that the policies, regulations and laws taken by the state are adequate and well-prepared, in conformity with the demands and wishes of the great majority of the people and in due respect to the rational ideas of the minority.
What takes place during the two sessions?
More than 5,000 NPC deputies and members of CPPCC National Committee attend the sessions. Foremost, the central government will reveal its annual work report, which includes the conclusion of the government’s work in the past year, the outlook of the government’s work for the current year, an evaluation of diplomatic relations as well as information on the defense budget and other major policies. The NPC and CPPCC members divide into groups to discuss the report after it has been delivered in the conferences. NPC deputies can submit motions, which are legally binding once adopted, while members of the CPPCC National Committee can only put forward no-binding proposals.
The government’s work report will chart the course of China’s diplomacy generally this year. NPC deputies and members of CPPCC National Committee will also deliberate on China’s diplomacy, during which process they will contribute their insights and wisdom to China’s diplomacy. There are two high-profile press conferences during the two sessions, when the Premier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will meet the media. They will review China’s foreign relations in the past one year and elaborate the main diplomatic tasks this year, from which we will get the main message of the outlook of China-Africa relations.
This year’s two sessions will be the first national assembly following a major political meeting in October last year, the 6th Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee in October last year at which Xi Jinping was endorsed as “the core”of the Central Committee of the CPC. The 19th CPC National Congress to be held in the second half of this year will elect new Party leadership and draw a blueprint for the future socialist construction. The two sessions will be eyed as a platform for preparation for the Congress. Meanwhile, China achieved a good start last year in its full implementation of its 13th Five-Year Plan on National Economic and Social Development (2016-2020). Under this context, this year’s two sessions are in the spotlight globally.
What Africa can expect from this year’s two sessions?
Firstly, more confidence in China’s economy, China registered 6.7% GDP growth rate in 2016 against a sluggish global economy, lower than the previous several years, but tops all other major economies. IMF’s World Economic Outlook shows that China contributed 39% of global economic growth last year. Rapid growth in China has been a sustained, powerful engine for global economic stability and expansion. China created more than 13 million urban jobs, lifted more than 12 million rural residents out of poverty and attracted more than $130 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2016.
Today’s China has become world’s second largest economy, second largest source of FDI, largest goods trading country, largest tourist market and largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. Thanks to years of rapid development, China has laid a solid material foundation, and its economy is hugely resilient and has enormous potential and ample room for growth.
More notably, China has made remarkable progress in supply-side structural reform, upgrading its economy to higher end of the value chain. Service sector accounts for 51.6% of its GDP, and technology-intensive industries are expanding quickly. “Made in China” is being transformed into “Created in China”.
Secondly, more opportunities for Africa. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized in the government’s work report on March 5th, “China will oppose protectionism in all forms and guide economic globalization toward more inclusiveness, mutual benefit, justice and equity. China will elevate its cooperation with developing countries and provide constructive plans to resolve global and regional hotspot issues.”
For 2016 alone, China made $170.1 billion outbound direct investment ODI and Chinese tourists made over 120 million overseas visits. Africa is among the main destinations of China’s investment and tourists.
Since China is advancing its supply-side structural reform, there is a growing need for China to relocate its overcapacity externally, while Africa is resolving its undercapacity assiduously. This is an unprecedented opportunity for China and Africa to synergize their development strategies and make Africa’s long-cherished industrialization dream come true.
In May this year, China will host in Beijing the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which aims to discuss ways to boost cooperation, build cooperation platforms and share cooperation outcomes. The forum will emphasize on openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, on connectivity and interconnected development and on innovative development to tap potential driving forces and contribute to the well-being of people around the world. China’s development achievements cannot be made without its passion to embrace globalization. China’s opening door will not close. We will open our arms to the people of other countries and welcome them aboard the express train of China’s development.
Thirdly, more hard work for China-Africa cooperation. Since the Johannesburg Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2015, the outcomes have been implemented in a swift and all-round way. Nearly half of the $ 60 billion funding support that China pledged to Africa has been disbursed or arranged. The Abuja-Kaduna Railway has been completed; the Lagos-Ibadan has been broken the ground. Steady progress is being made in a number of industrial parks or free trade zones across Africa. Responding to Africa’s needs, China-Africa cooperation is undergoing three shifts: from government-driven to market-driven, from trade in goods to cooperation on production capacity, and from engineering contracts to capital investment and operations. These three shifts will provide new momentum and opportunities for Africa’s sustainable development.
As this round of FOCAC (2016-2018) is going to be concluded next year, 2017 is a key year to implement the ten cooperation plans and make full use of $60 billion funding support to the fullest extent.
“What distinguishes China-Africa cooperation is that China always keeps its word. China and Africa are a close-knit community with a shared future. Our cooperation is mutual help between two brothers. No matter how the international situation or the world economy may evolve, there will be no weakening in China’s support for Africa.” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he met the press during the two sessions on March 8th, “Just as China was Africa’s most sincere friend in its quest for national independence and liberation, so China will be Africa’s most reliable partner in speeding up industrialization and agricultural modernization and boosting its capacity for home-grown development”.
Indeed, China is a reliable partner. As Acting President of Nigeria Professor Osinbajo stressed March 7th on the occasion of Lagos-Ibadan Railway Groundbreaking Ceremony, “the Chinese Government has always proved to be a reliable partner to Nigeria.”
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)