China’s top political annual meetings, the weeklong “Two Sessions,” ended on March 11 and approved strategies targeting the economy, technology, as well as political reform on the mainland and in Hong Kong.
Appointment of Officials
The rubber-stamp legislature approved an amendment of the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) Organization Law, the first revision since the law was passed in 1982.
The law had previously ruled that the four vice premiers, five state councilors, and ministers should be nominated by the premier, approved by the NPC, signed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader, and appointed by the CCP’s Central Committee. The NPC’s 2,953 members from all around China, who meet once a year for the Two Sessions, don’t need to be party members but must be loyal to the CCP.
The amendment changes the appointments to be approved by the NPC’s standing committee, which meets once every two months, can organize a temporary meeting when needed, and has 175 members who are more loyal to the CCP than average NPC members.
U.S.-based China analyst Wang He said the amendment is the latest attempt by CCP leader Xi Jinping to centralize power. By having the power to appoint or dismiss officials at any time via the NPC’s standing committee, Xi can tightly control these vice premiers, councilors, and ministers.
Hong Kong Legislation
The Sino-British joint declaration, signed in 1984, meant China would reassume control of Hong Kong in 1997, but promised to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy until 2047, after which Hong Kong is expected to integrate fully with the mainland.
On March 11, the legislature ruled that the main body of Hong Kong government officials and legislators must consist of “patriot Hongkongers,” meaning they must be loyal to the CCP.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told The Epoch Times, “[The legislation] guarantees that the pro-democracy politicians cannot take over 25 percent of the Legislative Council’s seats,” referring to the legislative body used by HongKongers to bargain with the Hong Kong government.
“[In 2021], about 14 million new laborers will enter the market, which includes 9.09 million university students who will graduate [by July],” Li said, adding that in addition to that, “we need to find jobs for veterans and 270-280 million migrant-workers.”
“Currently, flexible employment is popular, and involves over 200 million people,” Li added. The flexible employment Li referred to consists of self-employed people or street-stall businesses.
Li said China has a population of 1.4 billion, of whom 260 million are seniors. He encouraged the Chinese people to do some business that targets the elderly.
The real unemployment rate is a mystery in China, as numbers published by the regime don’t add up.
When calculating the unemployment rate, the regime only counts people who have an urban Hukou, a kind of household registration, but didn’t announce how many people are registered. China has about 500 million people who are registered, while over 800 million people live in cities.
At the same time, the regime announced over 440 million people had work in urban areas at the end of 2019, which is about 88.5 percent of the total number of urban Hukou holders—higher than the country’s 64 percent who fall within the 16-59 year-old working age.
The Two Sessions approved China’s targeted gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2021 of 6 percent, and the military budget would increase 6.8 percent to 1.35 trillion yuan (about $207.8 billion).
One of the biggest achievements of the Two Sessions is approving the “The Fourteenth Five-Year Plan for the National Economic and Social Development of China and the Outline of Long-Term Goals for 2035,” in which modernizing the military is a key aspect. The regime had the aggressive target of “achieving the unification of a rich country and a strong army.”
The plan covers the advancement of military strategy, combat theories, combat in new domains, organization, management, personnel, weapons, and equipment. For new technologies and domains, the plan listed ocean, space, cyberspace, biology, new energy, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum technology.
On March 11, Li Keqiang said at the press conference that China only invested 6 percent of GDP on developing the basic technologies—far less than developed countries’ 15–20 percent.
Li promised the enterprises that all their research and development investment would be tax free. He encouraged the society to develop advanced technologies, and added that the regime would support leading-edge technologies by launching more policies.
Gao Hongjun, vice president of Chinese Academy of Sciences and an NPC member, said at the Two Sessions on March 8 that China would develop leading-edge technologies in semiconductor chips, AI, quantum information, and life & health. Gao said these are currently the bottlenecks that limit China’s development and national security.
The Two Sessions also approved the government budget for 2021 and other plans, such as developing clean energy.