China's top political advisory meeting opened its annual session on Thursday in Beijing, making arrangements for work in 2020 regarding six aspects and addressing the most pressing issues including public, national and economic security.
Meanwhile deputies and members to this year's two sessions are urged to adhere to the mind-set of the "bottom line" as internal and external risks continue to grow, posing unprecedented challenges for China in pursuing its social and economic development targets.
A total of 2,057 top political advisors attended the 3rd session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee that opened at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing on Thursday afternoon, and the majority of them wore masks given the demand for continuous epidemic prevention and control work.
Before the session started, all the attendees paid a silent tribute to martyrs who died fighting COVID-19 and compatriots who lost their lives during the epidemic.
This year's two sessions started on Thursday after a 78-day delay due to COVID-19. Successfully holding the meetings also signaled the significant progress the country has made in fighting this arduous battle when most other countries and regions are still facing growing numbers of daily coronavirus infection cases.
Wang Yang, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, delivered a work report of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee to the session, highlighting a series of tasks the country's top advisory body completed in 2019 and addressing the work for 2020 in six aspects while urging political advisors to fulfill their duties in achieving a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
There are some key words for this year's CPPCC session. Security, safety and recovery all top the agenda of Chinese policymakers and advisors. Some stressed that more work should be done in safeguarding public health, national security and security in the operation of the economy.
A minute of silence is observed at the opening ceremony of the 3rd session of 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee on Thursday afternoon to mourn the victims of the COVID-19 and those who sacrificed in the fight against the epidemic. Photo: Xinhua
Participants to the country's most important political event during which the government subjects itself to public oversight and pools the wisdom of national legislators and political advisors who are ready to seize the opportunity to review and reflect on China's response to COVID-19 as of now, making proposals to improve the country's overall emergency warning and reporting system in order to better cope with a possible resurgence of coronavirus cases and future infectious diseases.
"I sincerely think the victory in combating the COVID-19 outbreak is a victory for Chinese culture," Wang Chen, academician and president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, was quoted as saying in media reports when he commented on the anti-epidemic battle at the first "CPPCC member interview" of the session.
"In Chinese culture, we truly respect people's health and lives, which is also deeply rooted in values that have been demonstrated during the whole battle," he said.
In reflecting on the shortcomings and loopholes within the country's public health system, especially regarding the top-down emergency response system, many NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members proposed to establish a mechanism for direct communication between the central and local governments over major public health emergencies and to improve the current infectious disease reporting system, as the heavily invested system, set up after the SARS outbreak in 2003, was widely believed to have failed to function properly during the early stages of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Some advisors also suggested that the National Health Commission come up with a detailed warning system regarding infectious diseases, especially unknown diseases, and classification standards of warnings on different levels, and then include them in China's infectious diseases prevention law.
NPC deputy Li Weimin, president of the West China Hospital of Sichuan University and one of the team leaders of local medical staff battling COVID-19, told the Global Times in a recent interview that his proposal to this year's two sessions will focus on the establishment of a direct and long-term reporting system for public health emergencies.
In China, medical institutions generally lack alertness to public health emergencies such as major infectious diseases. When clinical medical staff saw early clues of the epidemic emerging, they are not clear about the reporting process, and failed to use the direct reporting system to inform of a possible epidemic in the first place, he said.
He noted that the current direct reporting system still has the intermediate link of manual examination and approval after the medical institutions report information regarding infectious diseases, which will delay the reports.
"The system is capable of monitoring known diseases, but is not capable of providing an early warning for new and major infectious diseases unknown to us," he said.
Safeguarding national interests and topics on Xinjiang, Taiwan, Hong Kong have also appeared in the working report China's top political advisor Wang Yang delivered at the opening ceremony. Wang urged all members to make efforts in playing their roles, including organizing consultative meetings centered on the unity and progress among all ethnic groups, supporting CPPCC members in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in stopping violence.
Over the past year, CPPCC members also firmly safeguarded core national interests - releasing solemn statements condemning the US House and Senate passing bills related to China, including one on the HKSAR and one on Northwest China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
In 2020, the CPPCC should also conduct better united front work, creating conditions for people of all parties in China and nonparty personages to better play their roles, Wang noted.
According to an online poll made by people.cn before the two sessions, "national security" is one of the 10 topics that respondents care about the most. In response to how to strengthen people's national security consciousness, 23 percent of the online respondents agreed to "build national security consciousness via education" and 17 percent chose to "have more activities in enhancing conscientiousness and related practices."
"National security is considered a top priority to national interest. As traditional and non-traditional security threats have been interwoven together, the US is using the coronavirus to frequently challenge China's sovereignty and integrity in recent months," Li Wei, a counterterrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Li noted that the US wants to maintain its hegemonic position in the world, and when faced with China's rise, it has played its cards on Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong with the hope to disturb China's national development and to contain China.
A Tibet-related bill is also reportedly about to be passed by the US senate soon.
The Chinese central government is expected to take a decisive approach in ending riots and chaos in Hong Kong by revealing the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law in the SAR, a move to safeguard the central government's sovereignty over the region and prevent the territory from falling into the hands of hostile forces at all costs, observers and delegators said.
"China will never make any compromises in regards to national security and its core interests," Li said, adding that every country should not miscalculate this.
This year, as the Chinese economy is still grappling with what officials call "unprecedented" challenges from the global COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers and policy advisors called for more efforts in helping the country's economic recovery, particularly in regaining consumption confidence which has suffered a real heavy blow amid the outbreak. It is crucial to whether the two goals - poverty alleviation and moderate prosperity - in achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be fulfilled this year.
Of the three major sectors - investment, consumption and foreign trade - the biggest impact from the COVID-19 epidemic would hit consumption, as many citizens still don't dare to go out nor consume while basic recovery regarding this would occur in October, Li Daokui, a prominent economist at Tsinghua University and a member of Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, told the Global Times on Wednesday night.
However, there are several "bottom lines" that China has to adhere to. For example, in the face of a complicated external environment, the country has to pre-plan to ensure the security of economic operations. Whether it's about ensuring crude oil supply, soybean and grain supplies or fending off major risks regarding financial markets as well as protecting overseas listed companies from unilateral jurisdiction and sanctions imposed by countries like the US, Li said.
This year's "two sessions," postponed for more than two months, bears special meaning as the unprecedented coronavirus epidemic complicates the nation's efforts to eradicate absolute poverty and complete building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
As the tasks are considered daunting, the country needs to map out more flexible and feasible economic development targets with down-to-earth principles to counter internal and external uncertainties, with more flexible and proactive fiscal and monetary policies to be set while upholding the bottom line of employment.
"It's expected there will be a fiscal deficit of about 5 percent. Compared to the situation in 2008 [in the post-financial crisis], there's no need to unveil a massive stimulus plan in heavily invested infrastructure," Li said.
Meanwhile, the most significant pressure point for the country's job market comes from the 8 million fresh graduates, who may have certain impacts on social stability. However, issues still remain regarding livelihoods, which won't hit the fundamentals of the Chinese economy, Li the widely acclaimed economist noted.