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All eyes on China's two sessions / by George N. Tzogopoulos, March 6, 2017 Adjust font size:

In recent years China has become the epicenter of international attention. Politicians, businessmen, scholars, journalists, students and ordinary citizens are interested in knowing more about a country which is becoming slowly but steadily an economic and political superpower. To understand China from a Western perspective is a relatively difficult task for two main reasons. First, most Westerners tend to analyze the country from their geographical perspective. And second, China has its own governance model and different priorities they are not familiar with.

In order to improve their knowledge on China, Westerners should pay closer attention to its domestic structure and developments. The two sessions, namely the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) for instance, which are taking place these days, are highly significant. Their comprehensive interpretation can contribute towards a better understanding of the country. This is not only about its political structure but also about its future policies at the national and international level.

To start with, the NPC and CPPCC sessions of this year take place at a critical juncture during which China is encountered with unprecedented international challenges. The beginning of Donald Trump's presidency might entail the creation of a gap Beijing could possibly explore to fill.

In particular, the opposition of Trump to globalization – as highlighted by his decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – leaves China as perhaps the most powerful supporter of this process of interconnectedness globally. But the Chinese leadership needs to carefully monitor how Washington will act in the short and medium-term before taking new initiatives apart from promoting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and integration in the Asia-Pacific region.

Furthermore, this year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). During the two sessions, information on China's defense budget will be released only a few days after Trump asked the Congress for a $54 billion increase in military spending. Also, the 45th U.S. President has said that he would increase his country's military presence in the South China Sea and aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has been already deployed there. For its part, Beijing is in the process of modernizing and strengthening its defense sector and is not prepared to abandon its patriotism.

Concentrating on the economy, this year's NPC and CPPCC sessions are certainly connected to the course of China's economy. The so-called "New Normal" has already yielded the first positive results in creating conditions for a long-term sustainable growth. In that regard, data about the rise of consumption are optimistic.

According to Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, consumption has become the primary driver of China's economy since 2014, contributing 64.6 percent to the country's GDP growth in 2016, up 4.9 percentage points in comparison to 2015. Also, growth rates are stable, vacillating between 6.5 and 7 percent in a period during which world financial uncertainty – especially in the eurozone – is a nightmare.

And China significantly contributes to the world economy via its international investments, many of which are placed in the context of its Belt and Road initiative. President Xi is expected to evaluate this strategy, reveal new plans and also present more details about the relevant international forums he will organize in Beijing in mid-May.

Additionally, the two sessions will offer useful insights on critical internal issues. These include the fight against corruption which has been one of President Xi's most urgent priorities. Although progress has been impressive and $1.2 billion recovered according to the People's Daily, new measures will be shortly announced to bring more transparency at the national and regional sectors.

From another perspective, methods for the election of deputies to the 13th NPC from Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions are expected to be decided and the general provisions of civil law to be reviewed.

Last but not least, this year's two sessions can be considered as a precursor of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to take place this autumn. Their symbolism and substance are subsequently apparent.

More can be written about NPC and CPPCC sessions after their closure. However, as long as decisions are being drafted and announcements are being prepared, the world can better approach China's governance and its government's agendas. Westerners are allowed to disagree with the process. But they have to respect it.

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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