The fifth session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature, commenced on March 05, and concluded on March 15. Side by side, a session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) also took place in Beijing and came to an end on March 13. Known as two sessions, these two gatherings revealed many interesting facts and the latest figures about the society, economy and governance of the People's Republic of China. Some of the interesting issues are presented below.
INNOVATION-DRIVEN GROWTH GAINS MOMENTUM IN CHINA: Chinese government has pledged to create a better policy environment for facilitating research and development, as the latest official figures show increasing dependence of economic growth on technological advancement and innovation. According to the annual government work report presented by Premier Li Keqiang at the inauguration of the National People's Congress on March 05, technological improvement accounted for 56.2 per cent of economic growth during 2016, which highlighted the increasing importance of creativity and innovation in the present-day Chinese economy. The country has implemented the promotion of innovation-driven development strategy last year that resulted in many breakthroughs at the local and global levels. The central government has been grooming Shanghai and Beijing as 'technological creative centres with global influence'; six state-level pilot creative industrial parks have also been set up, and the number of patent invention surpassed 1 million during the year while the trade volume of technological patents surpassed 1 trillion Yuan in value.
ROLE OF PRIVATE SECTOR IN CHINA'S DEVELOPMENT: According to a report released by the Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute on March 07, 112 among this year's NPC deputies (accounting for 3.7 per cent of the total number of deputies), and 97 members of the CPPCC National Committee (accounting for 4.3 per cent of the total) are on the Hurun list of the richest Chinese. Besides amassing personal wealth, these private entrepreneurs have also contributed hugely to the flourishing of Chinese economy. The Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission told a press conference on March 06 that private economy currently contributes about 60 per cent to Chinese economy, 80 per cent of employment and over 50 per cent of tax revenue. According to the government work report presented by the Chinese Premier, on an average 15 thousand enterprises were set up in China during 2016, up from 12 thousand during 2015. Over 13 million new jobs were created in urban areas during the year. Private companies were also the drivers of innovation, as was reflected in the annual report of the World Intellectual Property Organisation last November.
CHINESE JUDICIARY VOWS CRACKDOWN ON CORRUPTION: The heads of the judicial organs in China, Zhou Qiang of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and Cao Jianming of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) have pledged a firm offensive against crime and corruption during the NPC session. During 2016, Chinese courts conducted a staggering 1.12 million criminal trials and prosecuted 1.22 million criminals. Also, 45,000 corruption trials were held across China, which marked a 32.35 per cent increase from the previous year; 63,000 persons were prosecuted in these cases, among whom 35 were of ministerial level and above. The anti-corruption drive has been a highlight of this year's SPC and SPP reports. A new amendment to the Chinese criminal law took effect in 2015, and judicial organs have stepped up punishment since then not only against those who took bribes, but also against those who offered the bribes.
CHINA TO TIGHTEN OUTBOUND INVESTMENT REGULATIONS: Chinese government, which used to encourage outbound companies to invest all over the world, has now decided to tighten rules and regulations on overseas direct investment (ODI), especially those done for speculative purposes, as there has been a rapid surge in mergers and acquisitions. The authorities have introduced additional restrictions on capital account transactions and overseas investments, but these are not expected to substantially affect rated banks or non-financial companies, according to the Moody's Investors Service. ODI from China in the non-financial sector marked a record growth rate of 44.1 per cent in 2016 totaling $170.1 billion. Besides, mergers and acquisitions by Chinese companies reached a staggering $148.7 billion during the year that accounted for 87.4 per cent of the total ODI. The Governor of the People's Bank of China commented at the NPC session that the increasing ODI in the second half of 2016 triggered fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. Some of the ODIs were irrational, blind and rushed through, he noted, as investments in sectors like sports clubs and entertainment have yielded minimum favourable results. The Chinese government, however, has traditionally supported the participation of Chinese companies in international cooperation-cum-competitive ventures, and will now encourage more ODIs in sectors like high-end technology that can boost industrial growth and output.
PANCHEN LAMA CONDEMNS FAKE MONKS: In his first speech at a plenary meeting of the CPPCC after attending eight earlier versions, the spiritual guru of Tibet and 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu has urged stricter regulations for religious personnel. He called for improving the quality of religious work claiming that some regions have been using Buddhist temples as 'cash machines' for generating money. "Buddhism has suffered the effects of commercialisation with the growth of market economy", he opined. "Some monks were not following religious disciplines and have been seeking financial gains in the name of religion. Although fake monks cannot represent mainstream Buddhists, they have had a very negative influence", he added. The revered Panchen Lama also called for the proper cultivation of religious personnel, saying that many temples have focused on grand architectures but ignored the cultivation of knowledgeable monks. The two sessions of NPC and CPPCC brought together representatives from a dozen ethnic minority groups in China, including the Muslim Uyghurs of Xinjiang province, the Tibetans, Yis, Jingpos, Hanis, Lisus, Zhuangs, and the Koreans.
Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, a retired civil servant and former editor of Bangladesh Quarterly, is currently in Beijing as an 'Understanding China Fellow' of the Confucius Institute Headquarters.