China sets out policy plans for 2021 at ‘two sessions’ meetings

The ‘two sessions’ (lianghui) are the most important annual political meetings in China which set out the government’s plans and priorities for the coming year. They outline the policy direction for the next year in all aspects of public life – health, education, foreign policy, fiscal policy etc. COVID-19 measures will be in place for this year’s event and the time-scale will be reduced from the usual two weeks to one week.

The ‘two sessions’ refers to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which begins on March 4, and the National People’s Congress (NPC) that takes place from March 5. The CPPCC is made up of members from a variety of professions, industries and social groups who advise on plans but are unable to enact them into law. This function is conducted by the NPC which is China’s highest legislative body and includes representatives from across the country.

The issues which are expected to be prioritised at the meetings are technological innovation, reduction of carbon emissions, rural development, social insurance and employment.

This year’s ‘two sessions’ have a particular significance as the meetings come ahead of the Chinese Communist Party celebrating its 100th anniversary in July. In addition, the NPC will approve China’s fourteenth five-year plan, which provides a longer-term outlook for the country. In December 2020, the Central Economic Work Conference summarised the outlook for the next five-year plan. It put a central focus on technological development and stressed the importance of strengthening innovation in the science and technology industries. Xi’s speech also highlighted plans to expand domestic consumption and further develop China’s digital economy.

One issue which has already caused a storm on Weibo is a proposal put forward by NPC members which would forbid celebrities from endorsing online gaming. They have cited concerns about the health and behavioural impacts of online gaming, many of which contain messages deemed inappropriate, on teenagers.

The topic has gained 200 million views on Weibo as many users have complained that NPC deputies should focus on educating teenagers about internet safety instead. Some also commented that banning celebrity endorsement will have little impact on young users’ desire to play games.

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