GFJ Commentary

June 12, 2020 

Political Season for China is Under Way:

Highlights of the 13th National People's Congress in 2020


1. Introduction

The third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China ended on the afternoon of May 28. After a week of its opening period since May 22, the voting results for each bill proposed, including the surprise one regarding the security enforcement to Hong Kong, were revealed on the last day. Followings are the highlights.

2. Voting Results of Major Bills

As the official Chinese media such as Xinhua News Agency only reports the adoption of the bill, the below numbers were collected from the report in Honk Kong based newspaper.

  1. (1) Report on the Official Activities: Yeas 2882 / Nays 3 / Not Voting 1
  2. (2) Civil Code: Yeas 2879 / Nays 2 / Not Voting 5
  3. (3) Hong Kong National Security Legislation: Yeas 2878 / Nays 1 / Not Voting 6
  4. (4) Economic and Social Development Plan: Yeas 2855 / Nays 20 / Not Voting 11
  5. (5) Report on Finance: Yeas 2831 / Nays 39 / Not Voting 15
  6. (6) Report on the Activities of the Standing Committee of the NPC: Yeas 2875 / Nays 9 / Not Voting 2
  7. (7) Report on the Activities of the Supreme People's Court: Yeas 2794 / Nays 76 / Not Voting 16
  8. (8) Report on the Activities of the Supreme People's Procuratorate: Yeas 2853 / Nays 58 / Not Voting 16

All the proposed bills were adopted by the vast majority and none was rejected, as usually seen in the NPC sessions every time. If the numbers of nays and not-voting are the genuine reflection of people’s will, the representatives of the people all around China gathered there accepted the “Hong Kong security legislation” with ‘1 nay and 6 not-voting,’ a landslide yeas to support the proposal. At the voting floor, the result announcement was welcomed by a round of applause, followed by the second round of applause when Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee announced it “approved,” then the third was heard when Chairman Li noted in his NPC closure remarks that the NPC will proceed to legislate related laws to maintain the security of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. As such, the NPC, “the highest state organ of power” as stated in the constitution, has become a ‘rubber stamp meeting’ just to process in favor of the proposed matters.

3. President Xi Jinping’s Behavior

During the NPC opening period, President Xi listened to the representatives of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (May 22), of Hubei Province (May 24), and of People's Liberation Army & People's Armed Police Force (May 26). While meeting with the Hubei representatives was a unique setting this year as the province was hard-hit by COVID-19, the others were routine since 2018. What was notable was that in the meeting with Inner Mongolia representatives, President Xi voiced “Only if it wasn’t with the epidemic, our economic target could have been set around 6%. … Though the epidemic has taken away our control on the economy and the damage we are affected from the devastation of the world economy is large, so it is increasingly deep and unclear.” Additionally, President Xi emphasized “If we are to set a target now that we cannot change later, the focus will turn to strengthening of the economic stimulus measure and the economic growth rate, which would not fit to Chinese economic and social development principles.” For someone power-played to add the Hong Kong security legislation to the agenda of the NPC, President Xi would have had no problem putting or adding an economic goal in the official activity report. So, what Xi Jinping voiced at the meeting with Inner Mongolia representatives was not his complaint as reported in some Japanese newspapers, but rather his concern for the economic overheat by revealing the target, or handing the responsibility of slowing down the economy to Premiere Li Keqiang. Meanwhile, President Xi took a strong action in personnel positioning regarding the Hong Kong security legislation. In addition to the NPC Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu, who oversees the legislations, Xi ordered his sympathizer Xia Baolong, Vice Chairman and secretary-general of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), to focus on his position as Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (promoted from Deputy Director in February) by removing his title of secretary-general of CPPCC, which tends to be a busy position.

4. Conclusion

Many Japanese newspapers expected that China would announce its victory against the epidemic and the following focus on economic recovery, though it turned out to be not the case. China has entered the ‘political season’ to tighten its engagement to Hong Kong related matters. At a glance, there are major political events scheduled to follow: the 31st anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square protest(June 4), the 1st anniversary of Hong Kong mass protest (June 8), the 23rd anniversary of handover of Hong Kong and the 99th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China (July 1), and “Beidaihe” meeting ---an unofficial, major gathering of incumbent or retired VIPs--- in Hebei Province this summer.

(This is an English translation of the article written by MATSUMOTO Osamu, an international affairs analyst / former-Analyst Officer, Defense Intelligence Headquarters, Ministry of Defense of Japan, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Giron-Hyakushutsu (Hundred Views in Full Perspective)” of GFJ on May 29, 2020.)