This year, the two sessions are inextricably bound up with several important dates.
First, this year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when Mao Zedong stood at Tian’anmen Gate on Oct 1, 1949, and famously proclaimed that “The Chinese people have stood up.”
Second, the year 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai.
These events will bookend the year 2020; the central government’s target date for the eradication of rural poverty as part of its ambition to transform China into a “moderately prosperous society”.
Poverty alleviation may be at the forefront of the meetings this year, given that China has made great strides and seen a host of achievements, economic and social, in the 40 or so years since the reform and opening-up policy was adopted in the late 1970s.
Deputies and members will be aware of the concerted efforts made over the years to lift vast numbers out of poverty via a range of measures, many tailor-made for conditions on the ground in specific areas.
For some regions and provinces, those moves have consisted of relatively simple adjustments, such as the founding of industrial parks and the introduction of programs to attract businesses and provide stable jobs for local people.
In others, traditional industries have been replaced with modern — often cutting-edge — alternatives that offer new opportunities and combine the talents of local people and those brought in from further afield.
One of the most prominent examples of the latter is Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, which in recent years has become a center for the nation’s big data industry via high-tech zones that employ an ever-growing number of people in a city and region that had previously been regarded as an employment black spot.
Developments in Guiyang, and in many similar cities and areas, will not only boost employment levels, but will also help the nation in its aim to embrace the modern world of artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things to cement its position as one of the world’s leading economies.
Meanwhile, in some barren parts of the country, local and central government funding, allied to self-help incentive programs, has produced anti-poverty initiatives that resulted in the relocation not of industries, but entire communities.
Guyuan in Ningxia Hui autonomous region is a case in point. For decades, the area was mired in deep poverty as a result of its mountainous location, poor quality arable land, nonexistent infrastructure and frequent droughts.
However, in 1997, the area was visited by Xi Jinping, who was deputy Party chief of Fujian province at the time. During his visit, Xi proposed that plans should be drawn up to relocate some residents to a new township that would be built in a more fertile area 300 kilometers away. Several hundred people became the trailblazers of the project.
By 2016, that “new township”, Minning, had become the center of viniculture, and the population had risen to 600,000. The average annual per capita income was 10,732 yuan ($1,618 at the time) — a sharp rise from the average of 500 yuan 20 years before, when the first relocated residents began arriving.
This year, as they look forward to the anniversaries, the NPC deputies and CPPCC members will be confident that their deliberations will play a major role in ensuring that the achievements of the recent past are matched by those of the future.