The ‘Two Sessions’ are the two most important political meetings of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). They are annual gatherings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). As the two meetings are held annually at the People's Great Hall in Beijing, they are collectively called the ‘Two Sessions’.
The NPC is the highest legislative body in the country, similar to the lower house of a bicameral parliament, while the CPPCC is equivalent to the upper house of parliament. Though I have drawn similarities here for the sake of understanding the nature of the two bodies of China, the ‘Two Sessions’ are not exactly the same as parliaments in other countries.
The ‘Two Sessions’ are totally different from a traditional parliament in every sense including formations, functions, and procedures. They are completely democratic, but at the same time unlike the parliaments of other nations around the world. That's why they are called the embodiment of democracy with Chinese characteristics.
China believes that there is no single democratic model that can be applied to all countries. They believe that every nation has the right to pick its own model based on its history, economy, culture, tradition, society and national conditions.
Keeping this in mind, China isn’t just copying a Western democratic model. Rather, the country has settled on a new model called democracy with Chinese characteristics that differs from other models, as does China’s history, culture, tradition, lifestyle, society, and economy.
However, democracy with Chinese characteristics is totally people-oriented and takes people as the ultimate goal of development. In this unique form of democracy, China has rural autonomous village committees, and urban resident committees at its grassroots. The committees are directly elected by citizens who decide, manage and supervise their own affairs in a democratic manner. In the upper strata, China has People’s Congresses at national, provincial, municipal, county and township levels. People’s Congresses at county and township levels are elected directly by their constituencies, while People’s Congresses at national, provincial and municipal levels are elected by the People’s Congresses at the next lower level.
Moreover, although many people know that China is run by a single party, the country has a multi-party cooperation and political consultation system under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The system is fundamentally different from both the Western two-party or multi-party competition system and the one-party system practiced in some other countries. There are nine political parties in China at present, with the CPC as the ruling party and the other eight parties participating fully in the exercise of state power and administration of China’s state affairs.
Under this unique party system, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Committees are established at national, provincial, municipal, and county levels. They are composed of members of all parties, personages without party affiliation, representatives from non-governmental organizations, ethnic minorities and all walks of life.
This is how members of the NPC and the CPPCC serve as representatives of the people. The members of the NPC are called deputies as they are mandated and given authority by the people of China. Every deputy enjoys full freedom to express his or her opinions about any issue inside and outside the sessions.
The majority always decides everything in the annual highest legislative and consultative meetings and other forums. From electing leaders to making decisions, there are strict practices of democracy at every stratum of the NPC and the CPPCC. The ‘Two Sessions’ are, therefore, considered the embodiment of democracy with Chinese characteristics.
People's Congresses at all levels exercise legislative power, supervise the enforcement of the Constitution and other laws, appoint or remove personnel and make decisions on important issues. The National People's Congress exercises powers to elect the President and the Vice-President of China and decide the Premier of the State Council upon nomination by the President. The CPPCCs at all levels exercise the functions of political consultation, democratic supervision, and participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs. Under this unique form of democracy, all Chinese, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or regional identity, enjoy equal political, economic, social and cultural rights. They have basic and fundamental human rights including rights to freedom of religion, speech and press, and of association.
This year, the session of the NPC concluded on Thursday, while the curtains to the CPPCC session fell on Wednesday. Just as in the past, the just-concluded two sessions have also drawn global attention as they have dealt with some special issues related to interests outside China, including many domestic affairs. The decisions made in the sessions matter to the world, especially developing countries, as China has risen to global prominence as the largest factory and economic engine on the planet.
The sessions have raised global hopes by making some important decisions that will influence the global economy, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, climate change and green economy, and cooperation on defeating the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese people have been similarly optimistic about the decisions including the domestic growth target, economic subsidies, agriculture and rural development, development of public livelihoods, and reducing income gaps between cities and villages.
The Chinese are delighted to see the ratifications of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, and particularly, the improvement of the electoral system of Hong Kong, as they think the improvement is a long overdue duty of the NPC. The highest organ of state power, which is mandated and tasked with the duty by the constitution of China, has finally fulfilled its obligation.
This article is edited and reprinted from the Bangladesh Post.
Md Enamul Hassan is a news editor and broadcast journalist at China Media Group (CMG) in Beijing, China.