Every year, there is an important event that takes place on the political calendar of China known as “Two Sessions.” This refers to the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). They’re also widely known as China’s top legislature and top political advisory body respectively. These two bodies have distinct but fundamental roles in China’s political life.
NPC: All Power Belongs to the People
According to the Chinese Constitution, all power belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are the National People’s Congress and local people’s congresses at all levels. The National People’s Congress is the supreme body of state power. The NPC has the power to elect the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China.
In terms of state legislature, it has the power to enact laws, amend the Constitution of China, and supervise the enforcement of the Constitution. The National People’s Congress is composed of deputies who are elected from 35 electoral units according to the law. These units include people’s congresses of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, the servicemen congress of the People’s Liberation Army, the deputy election councils of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region, and the Taiwan compatriots’ consultation election council. The number of deputies from provinces and autonomous regions with a small population size may not be less than 15. The ethnic minorities with extremely small populations should have at least one deputy of their own. A total of 2,980 deputies were elected to the 13th NPC before its first session began in Beijing on March 5, 2018, which is now having its fourth session.
The election of NPC deputies is made by indirect votes. But on the basis of the system of the people’s congresses at community levels, the election is direct. According to the Constitution, all citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election. Each deputy serves a term of five years.
The dynamics and functions of the NPC are different from those commonly seen in the legislative powers of Western political systems. The NPC holds its session only once a year usually in March. When sessions are being held, the premier, on behalf of the central government, delivers a government working report. This report is an accountability statement on government actions for the previous legislative year. At the same time, the report is also the document through which the government presents and commits itself to the goals for the coming year. The Chinese people can thus monitor the evolution of government policies and the decisions that are being made.
CPPCC: Practicing Consultative Democracy
The CPPCC National Committee is composed of representatives from China’s ruling party the Communist Party of China (CPC), all democratic parties, personages without party affiliation, mass organizations, all ethnic groups, various sectors of society, compatriots from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan, returned overseas Chinese, and specially invited public figures.
The National Committee of the CPPCC is also elected for a term of five years as it is the top advisory body in the Chinese political system. When the state must decide on major issues concerning the national economy and people’s livelihood, the CPPCC is consulted. The CPPCC conducts consultations before policy decisions are made, the NPC then votes on policy decisions after the consultations are finished, and finally the government carries out the policy decisions which were made.
The 13th CPPCC National Committee, which is now convening its fourth session, has ten special committees, covering economic affairs, social and legal affairs, ethnic and religious affairs, foreign affairs, resources and environment, education, science, culture, health and sports among others.
The CPPCC, as a distinctively Chinese political institution, is a major channel for socialist consultative democracy, and its committees are specialist consultative bodies. The essence of socialist democracy is to have people discuss their own affairs to find the greatest common denominator of the desires and demands of the whole society. Negotiation, interaction, and communication are the defining features of consultations.
This Is How China Runs
Under the leadership of the CPC, the CPPCC, the NPC, and the government assume their respective responsibilities according to laws and their charters, coordinate their work efforts, perform their own functions, and complement each other. It is through these political structures that the participation of the people in the administration and supervision of the government is guaranteed.
As the annual sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC National Committee occur practically simultaneously, this event of the Chinese political calendar is called “Two Sessions.” Throughout nearly 70 years of CPC’s rule, China has evolved from a predominantly rural and underdeveloped country into the second largest economy in the world, and has now lifted all its rural poor out of poverty.