Crucial and momentous, the Two Sessions conclude
Iram Khan

Editor's note: Iram Khan is a Pakistan-based commentator on international affairs. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The past week has been one of the most important in the Chinese political calendar. Annual meetings of the top legislature and the top advisory body, known together as the Two Sessions, were held to deliberate upon laws, decide issues and carry out consultations.

Deputies of the National People's Congress (NPC) and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee gathered in Beijing and submitted economic and social development proposals in the event considered the embodiment of China's socialist democracy.

This year's Two Sessions were highly anticipated as COVID-19 has left a mark – though temporary – on the nation's growth. While the rest of the world is still debating whether to lift lockdowns, China has risen to a position where it has been able to hold a physical gathering of its key decision-makers.

This is clearly going to have a ripple effect. Citizens and foreign investors who were apprehensive of resuming their businesses are seeing tangible results of China's anti-COVID-19 battle. As it is going to boost their confidence, a flow of economic activity is expected in the coming days.

The chief highlight of the event is the government work report submitted to the legislature. The report is both a review of the past year's endeavors as well as a roadmap of undertakings for the next twelve months.

Illustrating the main targets of 2020, the report has outlined a commitment to further open up the country and mitigate the effects of the contagion. For this purpose, the negative list of foreign investment will be significantly shortened and the multilateral trading regime will be strengthened through active participation in the reform of the World Trade Organization.

This would require energizing market entities and special attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that form the backbone of the Chinese economy. Relaxing location restrictions on their registrations will add the much-needed propulsion to business activities amid COVID-19's fallout.

Economic dynamism will be possible by strengthening new drivers of growth. Internet Plus and new infrastructure are, thus, two areas of the government's focus. Unlike roads and railways, these initiatives include next-generation technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence and industrial internet, to name a few. Tax reduction and investment incentivization in these fields will promote employment and structurally reform the economy. At the same time, traditional factors will, of course, not be ignored.

Toward the welfare side, the tendency of speculation in housing will be resolved by a slew of upcoming policies to spur a healthy development of the real estate market. Concurrently, the basic pension for retirees is being increased with the assurance of timely disbursements.

Most importantly, the report states China's desire to collaborate with the international community in COVID-19 control. Domestically, it has allocated 1 trillion yuan (nearly 141 billion U.S. dollars) for government bonds in the fight against the disease. As experts are warning against complacency over the fears of a second wave, efforts will be redoubled to avoid that.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses the media after the conclusion of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing, May 28, 2020. /Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses the media after the conclusion of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing, May 28, 2020. /Xinhua

Apart from the work report, there are several other noteworthy highlights of the Two Sessions. One is the decision of not setting a specific GDP target for 2020. In the face of uncertainties brought by the epidemic, it is essential that a long-term and holistic approach be taken to offset its brunt. A pertinent way of coming out of the crisis is by establishing stability and an environment that allows market entities to operate smoothly.

The decision will allow policymakers to remain flexible in dealing with the unprecedented challenge. The world is still learning about this pathogen and its implications on society and the economy. Therefore, tying down financial policies with a specified target will not endanger the innovation needed during this testing time.

Under the national poverty alleviation goals, China has to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020 and establish a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The ambitious plan has lifted over 800 million people out of destitution, but 5.5 million continue to live below the poverty line. The Two Sessions passed a range of measures aimed specifically at these remaining people.

Meeting the poverty elimination objective will be a great achievement against the COVID-19 setback. The fact that the government did not revise the deadline deserves appreciation, as this depicts its ability to handle such predicaments.

On the security side, the situation in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has been addressed with the unveiling of a crucial piece of legislation. The national security law, as it has been named, aims to optimize the HKSAR legal system by preventing attempts at subverting state power.

Sections of Western media have been demonizing this law since it countervails the foreign interference that has led to violent protests. Hundreds of thousands of people from Hong Kong have, on the other hand, voiced support for the law in an online signature campaign, awaiting a return of the stability that is the special region's hallmark.

On the culmination of the event, Premier Li Keqiang held a press meeting on Thursday and explained how policy support will allow achieving the year's development goals. Though he also addressed security issues related to Hong Kong and Taiwan and trade relations with the U.S., his emphasis remained on the economy's revival from the epidemic's impact.

The main take-home message from the Two Sessions is that China has adequate capacity to bounce back from the COVID-19 calamity. The policymakers have prepared well, and we can expect to see results within this year.

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