China today formally began its well-choreographed annual Parliament season during which a constitutional amendment removing the two-term limit for President Xi Jinping is expected to be ratified, paving the way for his continuation in power, possibly for life. The annual Parliament season, during which about 5000 delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the legislature the National People’s Congress (NPC) would hold full sessions to deliberate on a vast agenda for the year prepared by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). This year’s sessions assumed significance and attracted considerable attention as days ago, the CPC has proposed constitutional amendment to remove the two-term limit for the president and vice president, setting aside decades old principle of collective leadership. The proposal sparked off concern and speculation at home and abroad that Xi, heading the CPC and military besides the presidency, who recently began his second five-year term would continue for an unprecedented third term and beyond, wielding unquestionable power exercised by the party founder, Mao Zedong in the heydays of China’s revolution. The Parliament season formally commenced with the opening of the CPPCC at the Great Hall of People. It was attended by Xi, now a designated “core leader” by the party. The opening of the session was telecast live all over the country. Also, other party leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang, members of the Standing Committee of the CPC, who virtually rule the country attended the session. This Parliament season this year is also significant as top officials on almost all posts except the ones held by Xi and perhaps by Li might change.
It includes a new State Councillor replacing the incumbent Yang Jiechi who for the past five years was the Special Representative of India-China Border talks. Yang has been elevated to CPC’s politburo. The present Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, might take over as the State Councillor, which also means that China will have a new foreign minister. The new names approved by the CPC’s Central Committee would be announced after the formal ratification by the NPC, which is often regarded as rubber stamp Parliament for its routine approval of the party’s proposals. As he set to cement his power removing two term limit, Xi plans to appoint four vice premiers to work on popular programmes like poverty relief, environmental protection and improving economy which would enhance his image at home. The proposal sparked off speculation that Xi is working on populist agenda which would contribute to his public image. Tomorrow, the NPC spokesperson would address the press during which China would announce the defence budget, which last year stood at over USD 150 billion. The NPC, which has 2,980 deputies would begin its session on March 5 with a work report from Li. Its delegates included 269 deputies from the military.
As China’s main legislative body, it was expected to formally ratify the amendment to remove the term limit as well as appointment of new officials. The CPPCC is made up of appointees from difference walks of life, including film actors like Jackie Chan. CPPCC Chairman Yu Zhengsheng commenced the session and spoke about deepening reforms. Yesterday, CPPCC spokesman Wang Guoqing addressed a nationally televised conference in which he took selected questions, mostly from the Chinese official media, on issues like poverty alleviation, US’ plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium among others. Conspicuous by their absence was any questions on removal of the two-term limit for President and Vice President which made headlines at home and abroad. Hong Kong-based the ‘South China Morning Post’ has reported that that Xi has identified four CPC officials — Hu Chunhua, Han Zheng, Liu He and He Lifeng, for the post of vice premiers who are likely to be put in charge of the Chinese President’s top three priorities of poverty relief, environmental protection, the control of economic risks.