I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here's what I'm watching: the 2019 National People's Congress, the NPC.
It's not just me: The whole world is watching. Here are questions that world experts are asking of the NPC.
What will be China's target growth rate? A question I find less significant.
Will deleveraging be slowed and credit loosened? Will China's deficit to GDP ratio be raised to enable proactive fiscal policies to counter the economic slowdown?
What about tax cuts for individuals and companies to stimulate growth? What about state-owned enterprise, SOE reform, one of the most controversial areas?
Any insights into the apparent dichotomy between the market playing a decisive role and strengthening SOEs? How will private companies be financed?
Will foreign companies see the new Foreign Investment Law as transformational in terms of establishing and operating in China?
Will other sectors open up to private or foreign companies, beyond financial services and automobiles? How will stock markets, domestic and foreign, react to this year's NPC?
Will rural land rights and residency (hukou) reform be instituted? Will local governments be encouraged or restrained in their financing local infrastructure and business development, another apparent dichotomy? What about China's foreign policy in general, and the Belt and Road Initiative and the South China Sea in specific?
What about economic integration across the Taiwan Strait.
As one news service put it, the "new-era vision of a resurgent China at the center of world affairs has hit unforeseen road bumps."
Put more generally, can this NPC session increase confidence in China's institutional capacity during this time of flux and uncertainty?
All annual NPC meetings seem similar.
This is no accident: China privileges stability and consistency.
Yet there are always differences, and subtleties can be substantive.
What China Watchers do is to identify keywords and catchphrases, comparing the current year with prior years in order to get a sense of what is really happening behind the rhetoric and closed doors. This year the atmosphere is soberer.
The economy is slowing, and uncharacteristically, China is discussing the slowing more transparently, which actually builds confidence.
The trade and tech tensions with the U.S. are recognized as different from those of the past so that Sino-U.S. relations will become more competitive and more guarded.
Moreover, it is not only the U.S.; there seem to be more “concerns” about China from various countries, from Belt and Road project debt to cybersecurity cooperation.
Supervision is a hallmark of China's "new era," and I take a special interest in how the NPC carries out its supervision responsibilities.
At last year's NPC, the National Supervision Commission was established. The anti-corruption campaign continues in full force. How the NPC exercises its supervision oversight will be a key indicator of how serious China is to institutionalize its mechanism of checks and balances.