With China’s National People's Congress kicking off its annual session on Saturday, all eyes are on Beijing. Nobody can be indifferent when the world's second economy announces its plans for the next five years.
The People's Congress meets once a year in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
According to China's constitution, the National People's Congress, the parliament is the highest organ in the country. However, in the 1982 version, which is still valid today, the supremacy of the Communist Party is written into the first article. That’s why the 3,000 delegates meeting in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square have been handpicked by the party. And that’s why the biggest parliament in the world has never rejected a bill. All important decisions are taken by the Communist Party. The Central Committee agreed upon a five-year plan when it met last October. It’s just a pro forma procedure for it to be passed by the People's Congress.
China wants to move away from the old heavily-polluting industries
Willy Lam is an expert on Chinese politics in Hong Kong. For him, the restructuring of the economy is the most significant change in the new five-year plan. "It will go from the labor intensive, polluting manufacturing sector to more high-tech, capital and technology intensive areas. And it is important that they have already decided to lower the target of growth to just 7 percent."
Beijing already tried to restrict growth to 7.5 percent in the last five-year plan. Yet the average annual growth rate was 11 percent.
Worries about social stability
The costs of economic growth at any price cannot be overlooked. The environment is polluted, resources are dwindling and inflation is running wild. Social stability is also in danger.
"In order to keep social balance you have to make people happy, in order to make people happy you have to redistribute, in a fair way, all the financial resources," points out Peter Qiu, a journalist based in Hong Kong.
Security has been stepped up to prevent people from gathering
It is not only a result of the upheavals in North Africa and the Arab world that the fear of unrest has been exacerbated.
Willy Lam says it is also part of the new plan in which "the government will try to pacify members of the under-classes, the disadvantaged sectors by saying that a bigger chunk of national income will be spent on medical welfare, subsidized housing, pension and so forth."
Social welfare is also important if the government is to attain its goal of strengthening the domestic market. Beijing wants to become less dependent on export markets with all their ups and downs, which also create problems with trading partners. So long as people keep their savings in case of worse times, domestic demand will be slow to get off the ground.
Security has been stepped up
The party has organized the People’s Congress assembly painstakingly to avoid any surprises and security, which is already strict, has been stepped up even more. But Beijing-based China expert Frank Sieren says the People’s Congress won't allow itself to be completely manipulated.
"It might be an unelected parliament, just for show so to speak, but it is also the case that many people gather there, almost 3,000 people from different provinces. They talk to each other of course and bring their problems with them. They might even come together on specific themes and blow off steam at the congress or in the meetings on the sidelines."
Unfortunately, not many people outside are likely to hear about any misgivings.
Author: Matthias von Hein/act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein