BEIJING – Thousands of delegates from across China are in Beijing for this year’s annual session of the country’s rubber-stamp legislature and its advisory body, meetings delayed by more than two months because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The National People’s Congress session is more a chance for the authoritarian ruling Communist Party leadership to directly communicate its message than an occasion to debate or pass laws. That’s especially important at a time when China is seeking to restart its economy as the epidemic wanes in the country and tensions are rising with its chief international rival, the United States.
Top leaders including President and party head Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang preside at the congress, with Li delivering a lengthy speech summarizing the past year’s achievements and laying out priorities for the coming 12 months.
Here are some facts and figures about the event.
SHORTER THAN USUAL
The session, known as the “two meetings,” usually runs for about two weeks but will be cut in half this year due to concerns over a possible second wave of virus infections. Still, the session will include reports, speeches and media events, starting with Li’s Report on the Work of the Government, a sort of state of the nation address, that kicked off the session on Friday.
As in past years, economic development is a key focus, and Li took the extraordinary step of saying China would not set a target growth for the year in order to focus on fighting the disease while increasing spending to revive the economy and curb surging job losses . Growth in the annual defense budget, now the world’s second largest after the United States, was also set at 6.6%, the lowest rate of increase in years.