On March 13, the final meeting of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) was held in China. Newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping summed up the results of the “two sessions” – the NPC and the National Committee of the People’s Political Consultative Council of China (CPPCC, an analogue of the public chamber). And although these sessions are held every year, every five years the NPC performs one of its main functions under the PRC Constitution – it elects the President of the PRC and approves the composition of the Chinese government.
1. Xi Jinping still has no successor
The main result of the “two sessions” held is the unanimous re-election of Xi Jinping as President of the PRC, this is his third term as head of state. “For” voted 2,952 deputies.
China’s constitution previously limited a single person’s term as PRC president to two five-year terms, but after amendments to the constitution in March 2018, the same person can lead the state an unlimited number of times. .
In addition to the election of the President of the PRC, the NPC approves the candidacy of the Prime Minister of the PRC State Council (government) and its composition (on the proposal of the Prime Minister), elects the Chairman of the Central Military Council of the PRC (CMC) and approves its composition (on the proposal of the President of the CMC), elects the Attorney General, the Supreme Judge and the Head of the State Control Committee.
Both in Xi’s re-election and in most other major personnel decisions following the “two sessions”, there has been no intrigue – in terms of the nominal role of the NPC, Important de facto government posts were distributed following the results of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which was held in October 2022. On October 22, the day after the congress ended, was held the first plenary meeting of the 20th CPC Central Committee, in which Central Committee members approved the composition of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee (PC). Central Committee of seven people. Traditionally, within these seven there is a certain semi-formal hierarchy – in all party documents and newspapers they are listed in strict order, while each of the positions in the list always corresponds to a certain position of the party. state or party. For example, the second on the list is always the head of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the third is the chairman of the NPC CP, and the penultimate is the first vice premier.
A similar situation concerns personnel appointments according to the military hierarchy – the Central Military Council (CMC) of the PRC, the composition of which is approved by the NPC on the proposal of the elected chairman of the CMC. The Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, in terms of functionality and composition, is the relief organ of the Party Military Council of the CPC Central Committee, the composition of which was determined on the same day as the Politburo CP of the CCP. central committee. By the way, Xi Jinping also holds the position of chairman of these two bodies.
Holding three positions at once – general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, chairman of the CPP and chairman of the CMC of the CPP/SC of the CPC Central Committee – Xi Jinping is the head of the party, state executive and military hierarchy, respectively. . Chinese leaders only began to practice such unity of command in the early 1990s, when Jiang Zemin came to power. Another question is which of the positions is more important. Thus, the famous Chinese reformer Deng Xiaoping, not being the official head of state and party, served only as chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China / Supreme Council of the CPC Central Committee , and at the same time time has led both the party and the country.
Simultaneously with the election of the president of the People’s Republic of China, the NPC also votes for his deputy. The Chinese Constitution very vaguely defines the powers of the deputy head of state – he “assists the president in his work” and “may exercise part of the powers of the president” on behalf of the latter. This vague language is associated with the important role of this post in terms of the transfer of power in China – during the leadership of the country by Jiang Zemin (1993-2003) and Hu Jintao (2003-2013), the post of Vice President with the beginning of Jiang’s second term and Hu passed to a future successor. As a result, Jiang and Hu were given the legal opportunity to transfer some of their powers to a potential successor to test what he was capable of. With the start of the second term of Xi Jinping’s presidency in 2018, there was no successor to the post of PRC vice president – the post was retained by Xi Jinping’s close associate Wang Qishan. It was a sign that Xi planned to stay for at least a third term.
Han Zheng, a 69-year-old party member, former first vice premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and member of the Politburo Posts Committee of the CPC Central Committee, was elected as the new vice president ( according to the results of the 20th Congress, he was not included in the Politburo CP). According to past practice in China, the age of the head of state should not exceed 62 when he takes office. For example, former President Hu Jintao was 61 the year he became head of state, and Xi Jinping was 59. And when they took office as vice president, each of them was five years younger. Considering Han Zheng’s age, he is not fit to be a successor. This means that Xi Jinping most likely plans to stay in power for more than five years.
After studying the experience of the Brezhnev era in the USSR, the Party adopted the semi-formal rule “七上八下” (qishan basia, literally: “seven – high, eight – low”). This rule does not allow the granting of a new position to a person if he is already 68 years old at the time of the convention. However, during the 20th CPC Congress, the rule was violated three times – the party leadership included diplomat Wang Yi, who holds the post of head of the Commission Office of the CPC Central Committee for Foreign Affairs, vice- Chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Yuxia and Xi Jinping himself.
2. At the head of the government is a protege of Xi, who promotes the development of high technologies
Li Qiang, 63, a member of the Postal Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee, became the new head of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Li Qiang joined the party in 1986 and rose through the corporate ranks from Xi Jinping. He worked in Zhejiang province, whose party committee was headed by Xi Jinping from 2002 to 2007. In 2013, Li Qiang became governor of Zhejiang province. During those years, an incident happened that greatly influenced Li Qiang’s career. Together with Xi Jinping, he went on a trip to the United States and was able to push for the construction of the first Boeing factory in China in the province he controlled, which was highly appreciated by the party leadership. In 2017, Li Qiang was named head of the Shanghai Municipal CPC Committee, a position Xi himself held before becoming vice president of the People’s Republic of China in 2008.
During the years of leading Shanghai, Li Qiang has been able to show himself not only as a clear follower of instructions from above – many experts blame Li for the extremely tough anti-COVID measures introduced in the city, but also as a specialist in attracting investments in high-tech industries. In the context of the US-China trade war led by Li Qiang, in the summer of 2018, an event occurred that was not typical of the logic of “trade wars” – Tesla’s opening of the most large foreign factory in Shanghai with a production capacity of up to 500,000 electric vehicles per year. It took just ten months for the US-China joint venture to go from construction to full operation. Li also initiated the creation of the Chinese analogue of the American Nasdaq – the exchange for technology companies STAR Market. During the three years of operation of the exchange, the total volume of funds attracted compound 64 billion yuan (about 9.5 billion dollars). More than 440 high-tech companies have chosen to list their shares in the project created by Li Qiang.
Given the emphasis on technology development in Xi Jinping’s report to the 20th CPC Congress, Li Qiang was chosen as premier, in part because of his experience in building the country’s high-tech potential. And, apparently, due to the focus on technology, the Chinese government will seek to emerge from the period of slow GDP growth caused by COVID-19.
3. Boosting economic growth is the government’s top priority
Before leaving the post of Premier of the State Council, Li Keqiang also spoke at the “two sessions” on the results of the government’s work in the past five years and presented the economic development goals for the coming year 2023. The goal was to achieve GDP growth of 5%, despite the fact that in 2022 the economy grew by 3%. But, despite expectations of further growth, 5% is more of an attempt to balance desires and opportunities. Back in 2021 Li Keqiang declaredthat to fully complete the modernization of China (according to the party, this process should be completed by 2049), the Chinese economy in the coming years must meet a GDP growth of 6%.
Following the results of the “two sessions” of March 13, the new Premier Li Qiang has for the first time appeared before the public as head of government. Answering questions from journalists during a press briefing, he outlined the main principles and objectives of his team’s work for the next five years. According to him, the new Chinese government:
Will continue to focus on meeting the needs of ordinary citizens. “The vast majority of ordinary people do not cling to the daily increase in GDP, they are more concerned about housing, work, income, education, medicine, ecology <…> Government work should be close to people’s real concerns,” Li said; Focus on the qualitative development of the economy. The Chinese premier noted that although China’s economy ranks second in terms of GDP in the world, China’s economic development “is still unbalanced.” “Any aggregate indicator, compared to a population of more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, has a relatively limited level”, underlined the Prime Minister; Pursue the policy of reform and opening up initiated by Deng Xiaoping; Encourage leaders at all levels to engage more actively with the public in order to be aware of people’s needs and hear their views on the work of government. Create a level playing field for all market players and redouble efforts to support the growth and prosperity of private entrepreneurs; Promote economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait and encourage Taiwan compatriots and businesses to come to the mainland; Try to establish cooperation with the United States. “There is great potential for China-US cooperation. Deterrence and pressure don’t benefit anyone,” Li Qiang said;
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