Why West does not un­der­stand ‘two ses­sions’


The 2018 ple­nary ses­sions of the 13th Na­tional Peo­ple's Congress (NPC) and of the 13th Na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple's Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence (CPPCC) are around the cor­ner. The most im­por­tant an­nual po­lit­i­cal meet­ings are known as "two ses­sions." In times of glob­al­iza­tion and the In­ter­net, many Western­ers still view ev­ery­thing through their lens of ar­ro­gance and prej­u­dice, and look at China's two ses­sions in a bi­ased or even com­pletely in­cor­rect way. The West nur­tures a stereo­type that the NPC, China's top leg­is­la­ture, doesn't re­ally func­tion as a par­lia­ment to make poli­cies but acts more like a rub­ber stamp of the Com­mu­nist Party of China's (CPC) de­ci­sions. As a mat­ter of fact, the NPC has the power to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion, to en­act and re­vise ba­sic laws, to elect and ap­point mem­bers to cen­tral state or­gans and to de­ter­mine ma­jor state is­sues. In most cases, it func­tions like Western par­lia­ments. While it is the ex­ec­u­tive bod­ies that make de­ci­sions in Western coun­tries, in China's CPCled multi-party co­op­er­a­tion and po­lit­i­cal con­sul­ta­tion sys­tem, nat­u­rally the CPC and ad­min­is­tra­tive or­gans are ma­jor de­ci­sion-mak­ing bod­ies. Western­ers call the NPC a rub­ber stamp mainly be­cause dur­ing the an­nual two ses­sions NPC deputies rarely have fierce de­bates or veto bills, as of­ten seen in Western par­lia­ments. Yet this shows their de­fi­cient knowl­edge about the Chi­nese po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. Ac­tu­ally, dis­cus­sions about ma­jor state af­fairs don't take place dur­ing the two ses­sions, but be­fore­hand in a se­ries of meet­ings. Out­comes of these meet­ings will be sub­mit­ted to the two ses­sions for vote. In this sense, the key func­tion of the two ses­sions is to le­gal­ize the ideas and mea­sures of the CPC and im­prove a pro­posal, in­stead of ve­to­ing it. On the other hand, par­lia­ments in the West are com­prised of mem­bers from var­i­ous par­ties with dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests and views, and are in­flu­enced by vested in­ter­ests. Op­po­si­tion par­ties op­pose mea­sures taken by the rul­ing party and it's of­ten hard to come to a con­sen­sus. In the US, Repub­li­cans and Democrats are sel­dom in agree­ment, form­ing a ve­toc­racy as Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Fran­cis Fukuyama calls it. In fact, Western coun­tries ur­gently need to re­flect upon and re­form their sys­tems where it is hard to reach con­sen­sus, that are in­ef­fi­cient in en­force­ment and negate al­most ev­ery­thing. Such prob­lem­atic sys­tems shouldn't be­come a stan­dard to mea­sure other coun­tries leg­isla­tive com­pe­tence. Nonethe­less, the leg­is­la­tures of Western coun­tries and China all have power to su­per­vise, though the West finds it hard to un­der­stand how the func­tion is ex­er­cised. In fact, the top­ics to be dis­cussed dur­ing the two ses­sions are the ones with which the Party, gov­ern­ments and so­ci­ety are highly con­cerned. The NPC deputies and CPPCC mem­bers are all pro­fes­sion­als in their fields and com­mand ex­per­tise over their sub­jects. Their ad­vice and su­per­vi­sion are hence highly re­li­able and con­vinc­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, the NPC votes on ma­jor is­sues such as of­fi­cials' ap­point­ments and bills, and the per­cent­age of votes ob­tained can be telling. Su Rong, the for­mer vice chair­man of the CPPCC Na­tional Com­mit­tee, be­came the first "tiger" (se­nior of­fi­cial) to be probed in 2014 as part of China's anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign since the 18th CPC Na­tional Congress. He was in­ves­ti­gated be­cause in spite of be­ing the sec­re­tary of the CPC Jiangxi Pro­vin­cial Com­mit­tee, he stood sec­ond last in the elec­tion of NPC deputies. The two ses­sions have be­come one of the most sig­nif­i­cant fea­tures of the Chi­nese po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. The Party and gov­ern­ments think highly of and ac­tively re­spond to voices from the two ses­sions. This pro­vides an in­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tee for the NPC and CPPCC to play their su­per­vi­sory role. Chi­nese pol­i­tics has been peo­ple-ori­ented for thou­sands of years. Pub­lic con­cerns are high on the agenda of the NPC, CPPCC and Chi­nese lead­ers. China has made its po­lit­i­cal goal peo­ple-cen­tric since the be­gin­ning of the Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion, while the West only came to the stage af­ter the demo­cratic sys­tem took shape. (Theau­tho­risas­cholar re­siding­inFrance­anda re­search­fel­lowfromthe In­sti­tu­te­ofChina,Fu­dan Univer­sity.)opin­ion@


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