Two Sessions: What to expect from China's most important political event this year

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference will meet at the Great Hall of the People in Bejing on May 21. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - China's annual parliamentary meetings, known as lianghui or Two Sessions, kick off on Thursday (May 21) with 5,000 lawmakers and advisors gathering at the Great Hall of the People to chart the course of the world's second-largest economy.

WHAT ARE THE MEETINGS FOR?

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, will meet on Thursday and its 2,000 representatives from various political parties and sectors of society will make proposals and policy suggestions to the government.

This year, delegates have submitted hundreds of proposals on public health security, such as establishing direct communication channels between local and central authorities, to be used in response to major public health emergencies.

The National People's Congress, the more keenly-watched of the two meetings, will start its session on Friday. Some 3,000 officials from across the country will review and endorse the government's work in the past and coming year, pass new legislation, approve the budget and ratify personnel changes.

WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?

The meetings are typically held in March. This year, they were postponed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. But the fact that they will now go ahead is a sign that China is confident it has the outbreak under control.

This year's meetings, however, will be shortened to a week from the customary 10 days.

Delegates coming to Beijing from all provinces also have to adhere to strict anti-coronavirus measures, including safe distancing and quarantine.

Even diplomats invited to the opening ceremonies of both meetings have to take a nucleic acid test and be driven to the venue.

In addition, journalists have been forbidden to enter the Great Hall and will be reporting from a news centre off-site.

WILL CHINA HAVE A GDP TARGET THIS YEAR?

Economists believe Beijing may not set a GDP target this year amid the uncertainty surrounding both the Chinese and the global economy and fears of another wave of infections. It may set a target range instead, possibly between 2 and 3 per cent, or nothing at all.

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE AGENDA

Reviving the economy and saving and creating jobs will be the key focus of this year's meetings. The government is expected to announce a sizeable stimulus plan aimed at boosting investment.

It could raise its fiscal deficit ratio past the long-standing red line of 3 per cent, to possibly 4 per cent. It may also give more details on issuing special treasury bonds - a first since 2007 - to help prop up the economy.

As for legislation, parliament will deliberate a draft civil code that will give better property rights protection.

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