China Analysis: How far will the NPC go in implementing reform?

On the nature of the reform agenda

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This week, China’s elite is gathering for the annual National People’s Congress – an event that will shape the work of the government in the coming year. And Xi Jinping’s to-do list could not be longer:  environmental problems, terrorist attacks and endemic corruption are just a few of the problems that the Chinese leadership needs to deal with. But despite ambitious announcements at the “Third Plenum” there are now serious doubts whether the NPC will deliver any concrete reform.

This special issue of China Analysis, published by ECFR and the Asia Centre, looks at the politics of the NPC and the nature of Xi Jinping’s reform agenda:

  • Interest groups: a case for enlightened despotism? Critics say that implementing reforms requires too much centralisation, with interest groups such as local governments and state-owned enterprises expected to be the main barrier to reform.
  • A  National Security Committee for China.  The newly established Central National Security Commission that has caused much speculation will work in addition to multiple decision-making and advisory structures for national security in China.
  • Law as an economic tool? The Chinese reforms of the judicial system that support economic reform would be impossible elsewhere, as they leave out an endorsement of constitutionalism and rule of law.

“Perhaps the most interesting development is not an act of reform at all: it is the unprecedented autonomous move taken by China’s central bank to depreciate the renminbi in late February. The Chinese central bank could not have done this without getting a green light from the political leadership.  The move will have its undesirable international effects. But it does show that the central bank has been given a degree of financial autonomy, and it represents a move against some powerful vested interests.“ – Francois Godement  

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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