"Suggestions" and "Proposals" from Two Sessions
Examining what NYT dismissed as "usually harmless suggestions about their pet causes"
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The 两会 Two Sessions, or the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (the national legislative body) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (the political advisory body), are just around the corner - opening on Friday, March 5 and Thursday, March 4, respectively.
This newsletter looks at one often overlooked institutional arrangement related to the Two Sessions, which your Pekingnologist believes is not only informative but also of practical use: 代表委员建议提案办理 the handling of 建议 suggestions of NPC deputies and 提案 proposals of CPPCC members.
This newsletter is divided into four parts:
I. A brief overview of the mechanism behind suggestions by NPC Deputies and proposals by CPPCC members;
II. Select examples of Chinese government ministries’ replies;
III. Educated guess of select suggestions and proposals, and observations;
IV. How to find the suggestions and proposals.
But before examining what a New York Times report in 2017 dismissed as usually harmless suggestions about their pet causes, allow your Pekingnologist to re-emphasize this is a PERSONAL newsletter where all the views are of himself. This does NOT represent the view of his day-job employer Xinhua News Agency, let alone “China.” Please also note all the suggestions and proposals in this newsletter are NOT part of the upcoming 2021 Two Sessions, but from last year.
NPC deputies and CPPCC members are NOT full-time legislators or political advisors. They don’t earn their living wages at the bodies. The annual sessions, held in early March every year except last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, see them submitting written documents to their respective bodies - in the case of NPC, it’s called 建议 suggestions and in the case of CPPCC, it’s called 提案 proposals.
In the case of suggestions at the NPC, Article 21 of the current 中华人民共和国全国人民代表大会组织法 (CHN) Organic Law of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (ENG) says
The suggestions, criticisms and opinions put forward by deputies to the National People's Congress or its Standing Committee concerning any sphere of work shall be referred by the office of the Standing Committee to the relevant agencies or organizations for study, handling and a responsible answer.
But it is in the process of being amended, and two clauses have been proposed to be added
The suggestions, criticisms, and opinions put forward by NPC deputies, relevant organs and organizations should carefully study and handle, stay in contact with the deputies, listen to their views sufficiently, and respond in a timely manner."
The administrative body of the Standing Committee of the NPC and the responsible organizations should provide timely feedback to the deputies’ suggestions, criticisms or opinions on the handling of the situation. The NPC special committees and standing committees should strengthen the supervision and inspection of the work. Reports on the handling the deputies’ suggestions, criticisms or opinions shall be made public."
It’s clear that the amendment, to be presented in the coming NPC session, intends to increase the burden of repliers and thus strengthen the effectiveness of suggestions.
In the case of proposals at the CPPCC, according to this 2016 Xinhua report in English
there is no restriction on timing, scope and number of sponsoring members. Generally, CPPCC members can raise a proposal in one of the following ways:
-- by one member or a group of members;
-- by one group or more groups jointly during the sessions of the CPPCC;
-- in the name of a party or people’s organization that has joined the CPPCC;
-- in the name of a sub-committee of the CPPCC National Committee.
In the observation of your Pekingnologist, the suggestions and proposals are quite similar in function and substance, as well in their handling by their targeted organs. For example, as you have seen above, the bar for raising them is quite low - one single NPC deputy or CPPCC member can do it. In addition, for the sake of simplicity, this newsletter will NOT make a conscious difference between them.
But NPC deputies theoretically could also submit 议案 motions, and they are different from NPC deputies’ 建议 suggestions or CPPCC members’ 提案 proposals.
According to the Organic Law of the NPC and NPC rules for the discharging of its duties, a motion on issues within the power of the NPC can be raised by the presidium of the NPC, the NPC Standing Committee, special committees of the NPC, the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, a provincial-level delegation (of deputies) to the NPC, or a group of at least 30 NPC deputies.
Afterwards, the NPC presidium decides if a motion is to be included in the agenda of an NPC session, or to be first handed over to a relevant special committee for examination. The special committee is to suggest to the presidium whether or not the motion is to be included in the agenda.
As you can see, the bar for making a 提案 motion at the NPC session is considerably higher. Also, a motion’s viability and thus significance is closely linked with the agenda of the session. Generally speaking, a motion can only be raised when the NPC is in the session.
On the other hand, suggestions and proposals are not tied to the Two Sessions’ agenda and can be raised outside of the sessions, despite that most of them are submitted during the sessions.
The overwhelming majority of NPC deputies’ suggestions and CPPCC members’ proposals go to the ministries under the State Council, China’s cabinet, which said in a Feb. 18, 2021, executive meeting readout :
……various ministries of the State Council……led in handling 8,108 suggestions from NPC deputies and 4,115 proposals from CPPCC members, accounting for 88.3% and 84.9% of the total number of suggestions and proposals respectively.
Other suggestions and proposals could go to the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, provincial governments, and other organs.
What happens after the suggestions and proposals are delivered to their targets?
According to Article 29 of 全国人民代表大会议事规则(CHN) Rules of Procedure for the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (ENG), which stand to be amended in the upcoming session:
The proposals, criticisms and opinions put forward by deputies to the National People's Congress concerning any sphere of work shall be referred by the office of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to the relevant organs or organizations, which shall study them, handle them and be responsible to give an answer within three months of the conclusion of the session or within six months at the latest. If the deputies are not satisfied with the answer, they may raise their opinions, which shall be referred by the office of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to the relevant organs or organizations or those at a higher level to be studied and handled anew for a responsible answer.
Therefore, replies are obligated. Your Pekingnologist is not familiar with rules governing the publication of replies, but many ministries disclose a massive number of them on their websites - the National Health Commission’s replies to NPC deputies are over 400 in number.
The most visible replies so far this cycle - from last year’s Two Sessions to now - have been the ones from the National Health Commission on possible relaxation of the family planning policy, which as it stands now generally says each couple can give birth to two kids.
Since it’s been well-reported, including in English by CNBC, South China Morning Post, the Wall Street Journal, and most recently your Pekingnologist’s friend and colleague Yang Liu’s newsletter Beijing Channel, this newsletter will not discuss that. Instead, below are some other interesting replies:
An unidentified number of CPPCC members proposed to legalize human-assisted reproductive technology to single women, officially banned but an increasingly hot topic on social media in China. The National Health Commission reiterated and detailed its opposition:
At present, egg freezing wfor single women for the purpose of delaying childbirth does not comply with the relevant provisions of our laws and regulations.
The main considerations are the following:
First, there are health risks associated with the application of egg freezing technology. Unlike male fertility preservation technology, female egg freezing technology is an invasive operation and the technical implementation is more difficult than sperm freezing. There are technical risks associated with egg retrieval, egg freezing, thawing and transplantation, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome due to the use of ovulation-promoting drugs and the risk of bleeding and infection during surgical egg retrieval, which can endanger women's health. The possibility of egg freezing for single women further delays the woman's reproductive age, which is not conducive to protecting the health of the woman and her offspring.
Second, the use of egg freezing for the purpose of delaying childbirth remains controversial in academic circles. Due to the late start of the technology and the time constraints, the safety and efficacy of egg freezing, especially in the offspring, still need to be further confirmed by long-term follow-up data. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology have both concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of egg freezing for the purpose of delaying childbearing in women, and have clearly suggested that commercial promotion of egg freezing may give false hope to women with late childbearing, causing women to further delay their fertility plans. Relevant foreign population studies have shown that the success rate of egg freezing technology decreases with increasing female age.
Third, strict prevention of commercialization and maintenance of social welfare are ethical principles that need to be strictly followed in the implementation of assisted reproductive technologies. Exceeding medical indications and offering assisted reproductive technology as a commodity to healthy people will inevitably lead to misuse of the technology for profit. Currently, some media are using terms such as "regret medicine" and "fertility insurance" to promote egg freezing technology, which can be misleading and bring about the risk of misuse of the technology and negative social impact.
China’s securities regulator, in a reply to a CPPCC member(s) proposal, signaled its openness to amend the fundamental Company Law, to adopt the harsher “no-fault liability” principle for publicly-traded companies’ abuse of related party transactions; and enable Chinese courts to revoke shareholder meeting’s resolution that is “obviously unfair,” which so far is not provided for in the Company Law.
I. Improve the provisions on related party transactions
The proposal suggests that the Company Law of the People's Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the "Company Law") should prohibit controlling shareholders, actual controllers, directors and supervisors of listed companies from using related party transactions to harm the interests of the company, adopt no-fault liability for the above-mentioned subjects, and provide that controlling shareholders should return the profits from related party transactions and lose their directorship after losing a lawsuit.
We agree with the proposal and will cooperate with the legislature to improve the provisions of the Company Law on related party transactions.
II. Resolutions of shareholders' meetings that provide for obvious unfairness may be revoked
The proposal proposes to add a provision to the Company Law to clarify that shareholders may request the People's Court to revoke the resolution of the shareholders' meeting or general meeting if the matter is obviously unfair and detrimental to the interests of shareholders.
We agree with the proposal and will cooperate with the legislature to further improve the provisions on the circumstances under which resolutions of shareholders' meetings or general meetings can be revoked.
Judging from this summary of reply published by the Ministry of Commerce, Li Xiangping, who is not identified on the website but apparently chairman of Dongming Petrochemical Group (a significant privately-owned oil refinery known in the trade as a “teapot” in Shandong Province), apparently suggested in his capacity as an NPC deputy to MOFCOM that privately-owned oil-refinery be granted the license to export fuel.
So far, only one privately-owned oil-refinery Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical Co., has been given the license (ENG, Reuters), in addition to the big state-owned refineries Sinopec, CNPC, CNOOC, Sinochem Group, and China National Aviation Fuel Company.
But MOFCOM’s reply is so diplomatic that your Pekingnologist doubts if any further license could be granted any time soon:
In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will work with relevant departments to summarize the early and pilot experience in the Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone based on comprehensive consideration of national energy security and domestic and foreign production, demand and other factors, comprehensively review the wishes from various types of enterprises, and further study and improve the export management system of refined oil products.
NOTE: the mentioning of “national energy security” may imply the caution against granting too many fuel export licenses, which MOFCOM may find to result reduce domestic supply; the word “types” in “the wishes from various types of enterprises” may signal that when considering granting fuel export licenses to privately-owned refineries, MOFCOM may take into consideration the views of other stakeholders.
And with sharp eyes and enough patience, the authorities’ analysis of the status quo and industrial policy can be found in these replies. For example, the summary from this reply, also by MOFCOM, says:
At present, our country's petrochemical industry's surplus and shortage coexist, with prominent structural contradictions. To resolve the risk of overcapacity in the refining industry, the National Development and Reform Commission, together with the relevant departments, required all regions to control new refining capacity, and plan integrated refining and chemical projects in strict accordance with the relevant requirements of the petrochemical industry planning and layout program. At the same time, refineries are encouraged to "control refining (capacity?), reduce oil (refining?), and increase chemical (output)", extend the industrial chain, and increase the proportion of high value-added products.
Your Pekingnologist believes replies like these have news reporting and research value, for a number of reasons: they reflect formal government positions in an on-the-record fashion and thus can be reliably cited; they usually engage in substantive discussions of serious policy issues; granted, they perhaps more often than not reflect the government’s existing positions, but sometimes they do offer hints to possible changes in the future; some replies do shed light on frontline issues where credible reports of government positions are otherwise in short supply; and lastly, perhaps this is one of the substantive aspects of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics - one of the ways that the government responds to the official representatives of the people.
Your Pekingnologist is unaware of a centralized publication channel of NPC deputies’ and CPPCC members’ suggestions and proposals, but some of them sometimes choose to publish by themselves, in one way or another.
As far as your Pekingnologist is concerned, the replies themselves don’t include the entirety of the suggestions or proposals, and sometimes don’t even include the name of the NPC deputies or CPPCC members making them, perhaps to protect their privacy, pre-empt controversies, or that the identities are deemed irrelevant since the real issue is already addressed in the replies.
However, it is still interesting to make some educated guesses and observations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as your Pekingnologist’s friend and colleague Yang Liu noted in his latest Beijing Channel newsletter, made public only one suggestion from one NPC deputy named Lü Jianzhong.
In the first sentence of its reply, the MFA in effect summarized Lü’s suggestion
Your proposal to support non-governmental organizations such as international business associations that are led by (people from) our country to play a greater role in enhancing China's international discourse
Your Pekingnolgoist is unfamiliar with Lü, so he set out to Google 吕建中+商会 (Lü Jianzhong + business association). It turns out Lü， despite his first and foremost identity being a private entrepreneur as head of 大唐西市集团 Tang West Market, a conglomerate which includes the HK-listed DTXS Silk Road (0620.HK), also has such titles as Chairman of Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce and President of China Cultural Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector.
Lin Yinsun, chairman of Zhengbang Group, whose homepage prominently features pig farming, apparently suggested in his capacity as an NPC deputy to the Ministry of Finance to 给予养殖骨干企业特殊融资政策 give special financing policies for major companies in meat farming.
Shi Jiaxin, who became an NPC deputy in his former capacity as the mayor of northeastern oil town Daqing where its oilfields are affiliated with central government state-owned enterprises, apparently suggested in his capacity as an NPC deputy to the Ministry of Finance to take measures 充分调动央企和地方政府两个积极性加快建设百年油田百年大庆 fully mobilize both central enterprises and local governments to speed up the construction oil fields and of Daqing to its centennial.
There are also many suggestions that are of no apparent interest to the NPC deputies’ personal or professional business. For example, according to this reply from the Ministry of Finance, Choy So-yuk, an NPC deputy from Hong Kong and from 1997 to 2008 a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and its forerunner, apparently suggested that China speed up introducing the 灵活会计年度 flexible fiscal year, allowing alternatives to the traditional January to December fiscal year stipulated in Article 8 of China’s Accounting Law (CHN).
Some observations for this part:
It’s unclear if there are any conflict-of-interest restrictions governing suggestions or proposals.
But some NPC deputies and CPPCC members apparently aren’t concerned about such appearances. For example, the chairman of pig-farming Zhengbang Group went to the media to publicly advertise his suggestions for preferential financing policies for pig-farming companies, apparently out of his conviction that that is also in the interest of the entire industry and, to a larger extent, China’s overall pork supply.
Completely different from the Western liberal democracies, many NPC deputies and CPPCC members are NOT professional politicians so the logic in this context may be also completely different - which, as your Pekingnologist tries to understand - they gather in the Great Hall of the People in early March every year NOT in spite of their full-time jobs, but because of them.
Li Lianning, a former Member and Deputy Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the NPC, recently wrote
Once elected, members of parliaments in the West are often reduced to career politicians and become spokespersons for interest groups. Our NPC deputies are part-time. Such an institutional arrangement is to make sure that our NPC deputies are not separated from the people and are always with them. The NPC deputies are engaged in different occupations, have their own jobs, work and live in close contact with the people, can most directly sense the people's warmth and cold, understand the people's wishes and demands, reflect the people's voice.
And that may be part of the reason that they appear insensitive to what in the West could be regarded as allegations of potential conflict of interest, as long as they feel comfortable in explaining their suggestions and proposals as also broadly in line with the overall interest of the people in a convincing fashion - or at least hopefully so.
It is your Pekingnologist’s understanding that there are few instances where these replies, a distinct feature and product of the Socialist Democracy with Chinese Characteristics, are understood and referred to in the English-language world. So the final part of this newsletter will demonstrate how to locate these replies on Chinese government websites. This is done out of the belief that they are already online suggests the authorities’ confidence for the general public to review and scrutinize them, and more transparency will decrease misunderstanding of Chinese policy-making, which ultimately benefits China and its interactions with the world.
It appears that most ministries put the replies in the section of 政府信息公开 Government Information Disclosure, which Chinese laws and regulations require every government organ’s website to have one.
The Ministry of Finance has a dedicated page at http://www.mof.gov.cn/gkml/tianbanli/2017jytafwgk_14501/2018rddbjyfwgk/
The list of China securities regulators’ replies can be found at http://www.csrc.gov.cn/pub/zjhpublic/
For MOFCOM, it’s also in the 政务公开 (another way of saying Government Information Disclosure) section http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/zwgk.shtml
For the National Health Commission, it’s in the 信息/Information section http://www.nhc.gov.cn/wjw/xinx/xinxi.shtml which in fact is also Government Information Disclosure
For the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, it is http://www.mee.gov.cn/xxgk2018/227/240/index_11252.html
And for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs http://www.moa.gov.cn/gk/jyta/
This newsletter cannot be unlimitedly long, so for other ministries, you should check similar Government Information Disclosure 政府信息公开/政务公开/信息 parts.
There is another way, which is to conduct keyword search within the ministry’s website. Since it is apparent to your Pekingnologist almost all the ministries entitled their published replies in a similar fashion, which includes the words describing last year’s Two Sessions 十三届全国人大 (13th NPC) 三次会议 (3rd Session) or 政协十二届全国委员会 (12th CPPCC) 三次会议 (3rd Session), useful keywords could be 十三届全国人大 or 政协十二届.
On the last note and as a compliment, you’re again invited to read my friend and colleague Yang Liu’s writing on the same issue in his Beijing Channel newsletter.
Errors may well exist, so suggestions for corrections and feedback are welcome - feel free to reply or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .