The objective of economic growth after abandoning the ‘zero covid’ policy, the appointment of a new prime minister or the slogans in foreign policy after the last scuffles with the US will star in the annual session of the National People’s Congress (ANP, Legislative) that begins tomorrow in Beijing.
1. NEW APPOINTMENTS
Once Xi Jinping revalidated his position as general secretary of the Communist Party (CPC) at the XX Congress in October, the PA is expected to formalize his third presidential term and as head of the Armed Forces, in addition to appointing a new team of loyalists at the head of the Executive.
Li Qiang, Xi’s protégé and number two of the CPC, will be sworn in as the new premier replacing Li Keqiang, while Foreign Minister Qin Gang, appointed in December 2022, will hold his first press conference against the rise of tensions with Washington or the war in Ukraine as a backdrop.
2. POST-COVID CHINA
On the opening day of the conclave, the growth forecasts of the world’s second largest economy for 2023 will be announced. According to some analysts, it could be set at around 5% after growing 3% in 2022, one of the lowest rates in decades.
The authorities must also set a fiscal deficit target at a time when the country seeks to revitalize its economy after the impact of the ‘zero covid’ policy, which last year weighed heavily on activity due to restrictions and strict confinements imposed in the face of the spread of the virus.
Analysis firm Trivium believes the new prime minister could offer signals pointing to “fewer restrictions and a more favorable environment for foreign investment” to boost market confidence.
3. INTERNAL RESTRUCTURING
The Chinese legislature session could leave restructuring in several departments so that some powers could pass from the State Council (Executive) to CPC bodies, further entrenching Xi’s power.
“Xi has already managed to place his protégés in key government posts. He will stand as an arbiter when there are disagreements between them,” Dong Zhang of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told the South China Morning Post.
One of these restructurings, according to the Hong Kong press, could involve the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security, portfolios for interior affairs and intelligence and dependent on the Executive, becoming part of a new institution under the direct command of the CCP.
4. TENSIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
Analysts also expect Xi to step up his calls for “technological self-sufficiency” and continue his ideological struggle by presenting China’s development model as an alternative to a West that China says it perceives to be in decline.
All this in a context of recent tensions with the US, with economic and diplomatic clashes in several areas, such as the situation in Taiwan, trade and technological sanctions or the most recent episode of the “spy” balloons.
The new foreign minister is expected to appear publicly to explain the keys to the portfolio, which recently published a report accusing the US of “using multiple methods to maintain its global supremacy”, which it considers “a risk at the global level”.
5. DEFENSE AND TAIWAN
The ANP will also announce the growth of the country’s defense budget – in 2022 it was 7.1% and, in 2021, 6.8% – amid tensions in the South China Sea and the gaze set on Taiwan, an island that Beijing claims.
Tensions between Beijing and Taipei intensified last summer due to the visit of the then president of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi, strongly condemned by the Chinese authorities.
Just this week, the Chinese military protested the flight of a US military reconnaissance aircraft over the Taiwan Strait which, according to Beijing, poses “a threat to regional peace and stability.”
6. SOCIAL LEGISLATION
The ANP could address the country’s declining birth rate: in addition to already allowing its citizens to have a third child, some voices have called for legislation to help reverse the growing demographic crisis.
In this regard, the local press notes that the CCP’s advisory body will submit a proposal to gradually open access to egg freezing to single women and include infertility treatment in the social security system, and another to ensure that single mothers who have children enjoy the same rights as married women.