Asia Minute: China’s Season of Political Theater

Mar 6, 2017

The Great Hall of the People
Credit Wikimedia Commons

As we enter the first full week of March, it’s a time of seasonal change. For sports fans, there’s spring training and March madness. And for those who enjoy following political developments, it’s a new season in China. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


This is prime time for political watchers in China.

Two annual meetings are underway that may provide clues to policy directions.

One is the National People’s Congress—what China calls its parliament, although it never exercises any real power.  About 3,000 lawmakers gather from around China to approve various measures.

About 2,000 people are invited to the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference—what the state-run media refer to as the country’s “top political advisory body.”

Delegates have ranged from actor Jackie Chan and former basketball star Yao Ming to business executives and representatives of various groups around the country.

About a third of the seats go to members of the communist party.

Both groups meet for about ten days.  And there will be some headlines.

Look for stories about economic growth rates, fighting poverty and pollution, and probably something a bit vague about reform.  But also check for more subtle indicators—including any developments that may point to an extended political life for President Xi Jinping.

His presidential term started in 2013.

Under the constitution he would need to leave that office at the end of his second term, in 2022.

But there is currently no limit on what is an even more powerful position: general secretary of China’s communist party.