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Lawmakers, political advisors gather for annual sessions, upbeat on nation’s prospects

Updated: Mar 3,2019 6:54 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Thousands of national lawmakers and political advisors are gathering in Beijing for the annual “two sessions,” a key event in China’s political calendar.

The second sessions of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) and the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will convene on March 5 and March 3 respectively.

The year 2019 is crucial for the country’s bid to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the time the Communist Party of China (CPC) marks its centenary. The lawmakers and political advisors are upbeat on the prospects.

”I’m keeping a close eye on poverty relief in extremely poor areas,” said He Yanzheng, a political advisor from Southwest China’s Sichuan province. “Medical care is the key, especially the training of health professionals in rural areas. We must prevent people from falling back into poverty due to illness.”

China is aiming to eliminate extreme poverty by 2020, considered a basic requirement for the centenary goal.

According to government figures, rural residents living below the national poverty line dropped to 16.6 million as of the end of 2018, down by 13.86 million year-on-year.

”Chinese authorities have been addressing the issue of unbalanced and inadequate development with a series of measures,” said Wei Houkai, head of the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also a national lawmaker. “People who benefit from these measures feel gratified.”

More than 80 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past six years, said Guo Weimin, spokesperson for the second session of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC, at a news conference on March 2, describing the feat as nothing less than a miracle.

Guo acknowledged some weak points in the anti-poverty work but was overall confident on reaching the goal.

His confidence was shared by lawmakers and political advisors. And not without reason.

China achieved a medium-high GDP growth rate of 6.6 percent in 2018, defying economic difficulties and downward pressure.

The growth forecast for 2019, to be announced by the government work report, is now a focus of interest from home and abroad. The unveiling of the report is a fixture of the two sessions.

”Major economic indicators are expected to be kept within an appropriate range, and more space and condition will be created for structural adjustment,” Zhang Zhanbin, head of the School of Marxism at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said in his capacity as a political advisor.

Zhang said he and fellow advisors should pool their wisdom on issues such as innovation, deepening reform and opening-up, building a market environment for fair competition to help the economy achieve high-quality development.

Last year, China broke records on both foreign trade and foreign direct investment. This was achieved on the backdrop of lackluster global growth and showed growing overseas confidence on Chinese economy, lawmakers and political advisors said.

In its latest business climate survey published in late February, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said 62 percent of its members viewed China as a top three global priority for investment.

The optimism is widely expected to get a boost at the two sessions as lawmakers will deliberate a key piece of legislation to be submitted for a third reading.

Once adopted, the draft law will replace three existing laws related to foreign investment.

Zhou Mi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said the unified legislation would strengthen promotion and protection of foreign investment, sending a strong message of China’s new round of high-level opening-up.

”The longer a person watches China and the broader he looks, the more confident he will be about the country,” said Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics.

But tough challenges remain to be overcome. Issues concerning people’s well-being have always been hot topics at the two sessions. These include education, medical care, food and drug safety and social security.

Last year, more than 13.61 million urban jobs were created; personal income tax threshold raised, tax benefits granted; and 17 types of cancer drugs included in the national basic medical insurance program.

”I think jobs will be at the spotlight this year,” said Xu Xing, a professor at Nankai University. “More measures are likely to be rolled out to primarily address the employment of university graduates, migrant workers and veterans.”

Xu also expects more government spending on education, more drugs to be included in the medical insurance programs, policies to boost the provision of senior care, and measures to stabilize the housing market.