Decoding China’s Policy Signals in the “Two Sessions” 2024
2024年 まもなく全人代と政協会議 プレスセンターがオープン
2024年 まもなく全人代と政協会議 プレスセンターがオープン

The National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), collectively known as the “Two Sessions,” are set to convene in Beijing on March 4th and 5th, 2024. This marks Premier Li Qiang’s first presentation of the “Report on the Work of Government” during the Two Sessions, providing a glimpse into China’s policy direction for 2024. According to the Chinese Constitution, the NPC is the highest organ of state power, composed of representatives elected from provinces, autonomous regions, directly administered municipalities, special administrative regions, and the People’s Liberation Army. Representatives serve a five-year term, with a total of 2,977 delegates in the current NPC.

The CPPCC, with 2,172 members, consists of representatives from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), various democratic parties, non-partisan democrats, mass organizations, ethnic minority representatives, Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions, Taiwan compatriots, overseas Chinese, and specially invited individuals. The CPPCC provides a platform for private entrepreneurs in China to enter the political arena, with figures such as Tencent’s founder Ma Huateng, Evergrande Group’s founder Xu Jiayin, and CATL’s founder Zeng Yuqun serving or having served as CPPCC members.

In addition to reviewing the achievements of 2023, Premier Li Qiang will release the government work report outlining the goals and objectives for the coming year. Of particular interest are the discussions led by the seven members of the CCP’s top leadership, the Politburo Standing Committee, engaging with regional or sectoral delegations. Their chosen topics and dialogue content are often seen as indicators of the policy direction for the year.

This essay offers a focused and informative perspective. It allows for an in-depth exploration of the policy signals emerging from the Two Sessions, providing the audience with valuable insights into China’s direction for the year.


Maintaining 2024 Economic Targets at 5%

Delving into China’s economic landscape at the Two Sessions unveils a multifaceted approach to sustaining growth amidst evolving challenges. While major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have already declared local GDP growth targets of 5%, the broader economic strategy for 2024 takes center stage during the sessions.

Analysts project that aligning the economic growth target around “5% or so” in 2024, as consistent with the 2023 goals, reflects a cautious yet optimistic stance. As the global economic landscape remains uncertain, maintaining a steady growth trajectory becomes pivotal for China. The nuanced discussions during the Two Sessions provide a platform to dissect not only the numerical targets but also the comprehensive strategies that underpin them.

With over half of the provinces and cities setting lower economic growth targets compared to the previous year, there’s a delicate balancing act between achieving growth and ensuring sustainability. Premier Li Qiang’s government work report will be scrutinized for insights into policy measures aimed at bolstering economic resilience and addressing regional disparities.


Can the Two Sessions Rescue the Chinese Stock Market?

Navigating the complexities of the Chinese stock market, the Two Sessions emerge as a strategic arena to unveil policy initiatives geared towards financial stability. The persistent challenges faced by the stock market in the early part of the year prompt a deep dive into fiscal and industrial policies that extend beyond immediate stabilization measures.

Calls for the establishment of a “Stock Market Stabilization Fund” gain momentum, echoing the success of similar funds in other global markets. This proposed fund, akin to a “Land Version of the National Security Fund,” signifies a proactive stance towards market dynamics. Its potential creation and operation will be closely observed during the Two Sessions, providing insights into China’s commitment to a resilient and investor-friendly financial ecosystem.

China International Capital Corporation’s (CICC) recent report emphasizes the imperative of “strong and targeted fiscal support measures” for a comprehensive market turnaround. The fiscal segment of Premier Li Qiang’s government work report emerges as a critical juncture for unveiling the specifics of these support measures. Beyond stabilizing the market, the focus extends to fostering innovation, ensuring market transparency, and fortifying regulatory frameworks to enhance investor confidence in the long run.


Defense Budget in 2024 China’s Two Sessions

The spotlight on China’s defense budget during the Two Sessions gains significance against the backdrop of escalating global geopolitical dynamics. While the defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP has maintained a stable trajectory at around 2% over the past decade, the ambitious goal of modernizing defense and the military by 2035 propels discussions into uncharted territory.

The robust growth, exceeding 7% in the past two years, positions China as the world’s second-largest military spender, trailing only the United States. The critical inquiry centers on China’s ability to sustain high defense spending in the face of an economic slowdown. The intricate discussions at the Two Sessions will not only unravel the numerical allocation but also delve into the strategic considerations guiding the distribution of defense budgets among various military branches.

Amidst these considerations, the recent high-profile dismissals and legal actions within the People’s Liberation Amy Rocket Force leadership add an additional layer of complexity. The Two Sessions become a focal point for understanding how China strategically aligns defense budgets with its modernization goals and navigates internal challenges within the military apparatus.

These nuanced discussions during the Two Sessions elucidate the broader implications of defense spending, not merely as a numerical allocation but as a strategic tool within the complex geopolitical chessboard. Observers keenly await insights into China’s geopolitical positioning and its approach to global security challenges.


May Announce Delay in Retirement Policy?

Against the backdrop of shifting demographics and evolving employment landscapes, the Two Sessions may witness a significant announcement regarding China’s retirement policy. The current statutory retirement age of 60 for male workers, 55 for female cadres, and 50 for female workers faces reevaluation in light of increased life expectancy and economic considerations.

As China grapples with an aging population and potential shortfalls in social security funding, the proposition of gradually raising the retirement age gains prominence. Premier Li Qiang’s government work report becomes the platform for unveiling this potentially groundbreaking policy shift. The delicate balance between addressing demographic challenges, ensuring intergenerational policy fairness, and maintaining social stability is a nuanced conversation that observers anticipate during the Two Sessions.

The recently released “China Pension Development Report 2023” hints at the imminent nature of a delayed retirement policy, suggesting that 65 years might be the adjusted final outcome. However, the societal implications and the potential announcement during the Two Sessions raise questions about public reception and the government’s commitment to navigating the complexities of an aging society.


New Personnel Arrangements

While 2024 is not a designated “leadership transition” year for the Chinese government, the Two Sessions may shed light on subtle yet significant changes in personnel arrangements. The removal of former Foreign Minister Qin Gang and former Defense Minister Li Shangfu in the preceding year has left key State Councilor positions vacant, prompting speculation about potential appointments during the Two Sessions.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s dual role as the head of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee suggests a transitional phase, raising questions about a more permanent foreign affairs leadership. The likely appointment of Liu Jianchao, the current Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, as the new Foreign Minister adds anticipation to the sessions.

In the military arena, the appointment of Admiral Dong Jun as Defense Minister at the end of the previous year signals a shift in leadership dynamics. However, the customary concurrent appointment as a State Councilor is yet to be confirmed, adding an element of intrigue to the military personnel landscape. These potential personnel adjustments, while not headline-grabbing, are indicative of the leadership’s strategic vision and its approach to stability amidst evolving global dynamics.

The Two Sessions thus become a stage not only for policy discussions but also for understanding the nuances of leadership dynamics, offering insights into China’s commitment to stability and adaptability in the face of complex internal and external challenges. As the global community watches, these sessions are poised to shape China’s course in the year ahead, navigating the intricacies of an ever-changing world.


Taiwan Policy Uncertainties: Awaiting Two Sessions Developments

As the Two Sessions unfold, all eyes are on any potential shifts in China’s policy towards Taiwan. The geopolitical dynamics in the Taiwan Strait have been a constant source of global attention. President Xi Jinping’s address during the Two Sessions in 2015, 2016, and 2019 provided critical insights into the trajectory of cross-strait relations. Following Taiwan’s recent presidential election, the international community is keenly awaiting whether President Xi Jinping will provide crucial guidance on the future of Taiwan-related work.

Furthermore, the role of Wang Huning, Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in overseeing Taiwan affairs adds an additional layer of anticipation. His participation in the deliberations of the National People’s Congress Taiwan delegation, composed of Taiwanese residents in the mainland, holds significance. Observers are particularly attentive to the content of his speech, as it may shed light on China’s approach towards Taiwan in the coming year.

Additionally, a dedicated section in Premier Li Qiang’s government work report addressing Taiwan affairs is expected to offer nuanced perspectives. Questions during the Premier’s press conference are likely to touch upon Taiwan-related issues, providing a platform for clarifications and potential announcements. This year, with the Democratic Progressive Party starting its third consecutive term in Taiwan, the international community is on high alert, watching for any redrawing of red lines and the articulation of China’s stance towards the island.


Potential Legislative Action on Taiwan: Legal Battle Unfolding?

The focus intensifies on whether the Two Sessions will announce new legislation concerning Taiwan, reflecting China’s stance on reunification. Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent mention of Taiwan independence facing “punishment by history and law” has stirred speculation on potential legal repercussions. The looming question remains: What form will this “legal punishment” take?

One scenario under scrutiny is the use of the National People’s Congress to formulate detailed rules for the implementation of the Anti-Secession Law. This law, enacted in 2005, authorizes the use of force against Taiwan in the event of a move toward formal independence. As tensions persist, the possibility of amendments or supplementary legislation to strengthen the enforcement of this law is being closely watched. Such legal maneuvers could potentially heighten the “anti-independence, pro-integration” strategy that China has consistently pursued.

Another avenue of anticipation is the prospect of new laws aimed at promoting cross-strait integration. The dynamics of cross-strait relations have evolved, and China may explore legislative measures to further its goal of peaceful reunification. Whether these potential legislative actions materialize during the Two Sessions or in the aftermath will shape the future landscape of relations between mainland China and Taiwan. The unfolding legal battle adds a layer of complexity to an already intricate geopolitical scenario in the region. Observers brace for the potential implications on regional stability and global diplomatic relations, as the Two Sessions become a pivotal arena for addressing Taiwan-related matters.

陳建甫博士、淡江大学中国大陸研究所所長(2020年~)(副教授)、新南向及び一帯一路研究センター所長(2018年~)。 研究テーマは、中国の一帯一路インフラ建設、中国のシャープパワー、中国社会問題、ASEAN諸国・南アジア研究、新南向政策、アジア選挙・議会研究など。オハイオ州立大学で博士号を取得し、2006年から2008年まで淡江大学未来学研究所所長を務めた。 台湾アジア自由選挙観測協会(TANFREL)の創設者及び名誉会長であり、2010年フィリピン(ANFREL)、2011年タイ(ANFREL)、2012年モンゴル(Women for Social Progress WSP)、2013年マレーシア(Bersih)、2013年カンボジア(COMFREL)、2013年ネパール(ANFREL)、2015年スリランカ、2016年香港、2017年東ティモール、2018年マレーシア(TANFREL)、2019年インドネシア(TANFREL)、2019年フィリピン(TANFREL)など数多くのアジア諸国の選挙観測任務に参加した。 台湾の市民社会問題に積極的に関与し、公民監督国会連盟の常務理事(2007年~2012年)、議会のインターネットビデオ中継チャネルを提唱するグループ(VOD)の招集者(2012年~)、台湾平和草の根連合の理事長(2008年~2013年)、台湾世代教育基金会の理事(2014年~2019年)などを歴任した。現在は、台湾民主化基金会理事(2018年~)、台湾2050教育基金会理事(2020年~)、台湾中国一帯一路研究会理事長(2020年~)、『淡江国際・地域研究季刊』共同発行人などを務めている。 // Chien-Fu Chen(陳建甫) is an associate professor, currently serves as the Chair, Graduate Institute of China Studies, Tamkang University, TAIWAN (2020-). Dr. Chen has worked the Director, the Center of New Southbound Policy and Belt Road Initiative (NSPBRI) since 2018. Dr. Chen focuses on China’s RRI infrastructure construction, sharp power, and social problems, Indo-Pacific strategies, and Asian election and parliamentary studies. Prior to that, Dr. Chen served as the Chair, Graduate Institute of Future Studies, Tamkang University (2006-2008) and earned the Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, USA. Parallel to his academic works, Dr. Chen has been actively involved in many civil society organizations and activities. He has been as the co-founder, president, Honorary president, Taiwan Asian Network for Free Elections(TANFREL) and attended many elections observation mission in Asia countries, including Philippine (2010), Thailand (2011), Mongolian (2012), Malaysia (2013 and 2018), Cambodian (2013), Nepal (2013), Sri Lanka (2015), Hong Kong (2016), Timor-Leste (2017), Indonesia (2019) and Philippine (2019). Prior to election mission, Dr. Chen served as the Standing Director of the Citizen Congress Watch (2007-2012) and the President of Taiwan Grassroots Alliance for Peace (2008-2013) and Taiwan Next Generation Educational Foundation (2014-2019). Dr. Chen works for the co-founders, president of China Belt Road Studies Association(CBRSA) and co-publisher Tamkang Journal of International and Regional Studies Quarterly (Chinese Journal). He also serves as the trustee board of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy(TFD) and Taiwan 2050 Educational Foundation.