“The Central Committee Says What Counts”

The following editorial is from Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, about the 17th Central Committee meeting held in Beijing on February 24. Although the commentary is a couple of weeks old now, it relates to the ongoing NPC session. Translated by M.J.:

The Second Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee was held in Beijing yesterday. Although official media claimed that the focus of the conference would be institutional reforms of the State Council, but in fact the most important topic up for discussion was the list of new national leaders, for the sake of next week’s opening of the 11th National People’s Congress, which itself is nothing more than a rubber stamp, to confirm the list already approved by the Second Plenum.

The First Plenary Session: Self-management

Nearly all previous plenary sessions of the CCP have followed a repetitive model: The first session is for reorganization, to confirm the new leaders of he Central Committee. Since the Chairman of the Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Chairman of the National People’s Congress, the Prime Minister, Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee and Vice Chairman are usually positions concurrently held by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Politburo Standing Committee, and the Deputy Prime Minister position is held concurrently by a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the First Plenary Session will just implicitly recognize these choices.

The Second Plenum, other than formally approving the list of above leaders through the Deputy Prime Minister, will also approve the Politburo’s nominations for Vice Chairman of the NPC, Vice Chairman of the CPPCC, Supreme Judge of the Supreme Court, Supreme Procuratorate, and the Attorney General’s list of candidates for the Cabinet. If the highest level leadership of the CCP is prepared to revise the Constitution, or restructure the State Council, then the relevant proposals will also be approved by the Second Plenary Session, then submitted to the NPC session for approval.

Going through the motions

Therefore, the NPC and the “two sessions” of the CPPCC have long been drained of meaning by the First and Second Plenary Sessions. Three thousand NPC deputies and 2,237 CPPCC National Committee members meet in Beijing for two weeks simply to go through the motions, make some small talk (occasionally, once in ten thousand years perhaps, speak on behalf of the people’s welfare), and finally only repeat the decision made by the 204 members and the 167 alternate members of the CCP Central Committee three days earlier, adopting in complete concurrence the list of names from the Second Plenary Session. Yet, according to estimates, the annual national “two sessions,” with expenditures for meals, room and board, transportation and security for all the deputies and members, cost more than 500 million yuan in public funds. Is it really worth this much money?

Inside China, a jingle figuratively describes the current political system: “The Central Committee says what counts, the Government calculates before it has its say, the NPC says forget it, the CPPCC counts itself as having been said.” The Chinese Communists’ one-party system is the final say and therefore “says what counts;” the greatest power of the government is its distribution of budget, and of course, it must “calculate before it has its say;” facing the decision of the Central Committee and the Government, National People’s Congress can only say helplessly, “forget it;” and the CPPCC is but political decoration, withholding or voicing its opinion makes no difference, and therefore it “counts itself as having been said.”


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