Business Standard

Drooping economy to keep China politician­s awake at annual meet


One burning issue dominates as the 2024 session of China’s legislatur­e gets underway this week: the economy.

The National People’s Congress annual meeting, which opens Tuesday, is being closely watched for any signals on what the ruling Communist Party might do to reenergise an economy that is sagging under the weight of expanded government controls and the bursting of a real-estate bubble.

That is not to say that other issues won't come up. Proposals to raise the retirement age are expected to be a hot topic, the state-owned Global Times newspaper said last week. And China watchers will parse the annual defense budget and the possible introducti­on of a new foreign minister.

But the economy is what is on most people's minds in a country that may be at a major turning point after four decades of growth that propelled China into a position of economic and geopolitic­al power. For many Chinese, the failure of the post-covid economy to rally strongly last year is shaking a long-held confidence in the future.

The National People’s Congress is largely ceremonial in that it doesn't have any real power to decide on legislatio­n. The deputies do vote, but it's become a unanimous or nearunanim­ous formalisin­g of decisions that have been made by Communist Party leaders behind closed doors.

The congress can be a forum to propose and discuss ideas. The nearly 3,000 deputies are chosen to represent various groups, from government officials and party members to farmers and migrant workers. But Albert Wu, an expert on governance in China, believes that role has been eroded by the centralisa­tion of power under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

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