China parliament to vote on state reform plan

BEIJING (Agencies): China’s legislature will vote in the coming days on a plan to reform institutions under the State Council, or cabinet, and decide on a new cabinet lineup for the next five years, including a new premier, an agenda showed on Saturday.

The annual National People’s Congress (NPC) will also review a series of reports including the current premier’s government work report, parliament spokesman Wang Chao told a news conference. Draft amendments to the country’s Legislative Law, which governs how laws are enacted, are also on the agenda of the meeting that is due to start on Sunday.

In the latter half of the NPC, which runs until March 13, the nearly 3,000 members of the largely rubber-stamp parliament will elect and endorse a new lineup of top government officials. Xi Jinping is widely expected to secure his third five-year term as president when legislators vote on March 10.

He renewed calls this week for the “intensive” reorganisation of state and Communist Party entities, adding that part of the reform plan pertaining to state institutions would be presented before parliament. Lawmakers are also due to vote on the State Council’s institution reform plan on March 10.

The call for institutional reforms comes after China’s economy grew 3 percent last year – one of its lowest rates in nearly half a century – weakened by strict COVID-19 curbs championed by Xi that were lifted in December. On Sunday, the government work report due to be delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the start of parliament will unveil the official 2023 economic growth target, among many other social and economic objectives.

The gross domestic product (GDP) target could be as high as 6 percent, compared with a 4.5 percent-5.5 percent range proposed in November, sources told Reuters this week. A new premier for the next five years will be decided by parliament on March 11. A day later, it will decide on a new batch of vice premiers, state councillors, ministers as well as the governor of the People’s Bank of China.

Among the amendments to China’s Legislative Law set to be reviewed at the meeting is a proposal that would allow the NPC Standing Committee to pass laws in the event of an “emergency” after a single review. The committee, which enacts and amends laws when parliament is not in session, voted in June 2020 to adopt landmark laws on national security in Hong Kong. That legislation was put to the vote after two rounds of deliberation. Legislators will vote on the draft amendments to the Legislative Law on March 13.