The meetings of nearly three thousand members of the All-China People’s Congress in the People’s Palace in Beijing usually last for about a week. Voting on large-scale changes in the country’s leadership and government, which occurs once every ten years, is usually at the end of the session.
“After a long period of COVID-19 disease and its dramatic end, China is looking for a path to stability and economic recovery. Economic growth and job creation are priorities, as is technological self-sufficiency. The United States has cut off Beijing from advanced chips. All important decisions are in Si’s hands, who became the most powerful leader since the time of Mao Zedong,” ČT correspondent Barbora Šámalová summed up the situation before the meeting.
Premier spoke of “peaceful reunification of China”
Opening the meeting, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed the continued existence of the one-China principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China, but does not directly threaten military action. He said the government should implement the Party’s policy of “solving the Taiwan issue” and take “decisive steps against Taiwan independence and promotion of reunification.”
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and threatens it with military intervention if it declares independence. However, Taiwan has been de facto independent since 1949, with its own government and democratic institution. In recent years, Taipei has complained of increasing harassment by the Chinese armed forces, including the overflights of Chinese fighter jets or drones near Taiwanese territory.
Taiwan authorities responded to the president’s words by saying that China should handle issues related to Taiwan in a pragmatic, rational, equal and mutually respectful manner.
The military budget will increase
Even before the start of the meeting, the Chinese leadership advocated the expected large increase in military spending, which parliamentarians would approve. At a time of threats to democratic Taiwan, contested territorial claims asserted by Beijing in the East and South China Seas, and competition with the United States, the Berlin Institute for Chinese Studies Merics, for example, expects the military budget to increase by more than seven percent.
Association spokesman Wang Zhao has yet to release any figures on Saturday. “Behind the increase in defense spending is not only the need to respond to complex security challenges, but also the need to live up to responsibilities as a great power,” Wang said. “Chinese military modernization does not threaten other countries.”
China’s defense budget has increased more than total spending in recent years, for example by 7.1 percent last year. The increase was also usually higher than the GDP growth. However, according to experts, the official defense budget is only part of the actual expenditures, as many costs in the Chinese military are covered from other budgets.
As for changes in the country’s leadership, political and other institutions, they are expected to mark the end of a generation of leaders considered more pro-reform, whether it is the outgoing premier, Li Keqiang, 67, who served two terms, or the vice premier, Liu Chi.
Their seats will be largely filled by allies of President Xi Jinping, now 69, who in October secured an unprecedented third five-year term as general secretary of the ruling Communist Party.
According to observers, the former head of the Shanghai Communist Party, Li Qiang, a close ally of President Xia and now the second highest-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party, is likely to become the new prime minister. He is also responsible for the Shanghai lockdown which has been criticized as logistically unmanageable.
The goal is to grow the economy by about five percent
Incumbent Premier Li Keqiang will open the parliament session by presenting his latest report on the work of the government. In it, the cabinet set this year’s target for Chinese economic growth at around five percent. The target for last year was about 5.5 percent, but the economy only grew by three percent. In the previous year, it had grown by more than eight percent.
China is the second largest economy in the world after the United States. Economic activity in China was hampered last year by strict measures against the spread of the coronavirus. With the exception of 2020, when the epidemic began, China’s economic growth last year was the weakest in nearly half a century. According to the media, the Chinese economy last achieved a worse result in 1976, when the GDP fell.
The government has set the inflation target this year at around three percent, so it left it at last year’s level. Consumer prices in China rose 2% last year. According to the government, the budget deficit is supposed to reach about three percent of GDP this year.
“Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic.”