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China Leadership Gathers as Economic Challenges Mount

Xi Jinping attends the closing of the Second Session of the 13th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2019.
Xi Jinping attends the closing of the Second Session of the 13th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2019.Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China’s annual parliamentary pageant -- the National People’s Congress -- opens Saturday in Beijing, bringing President Xi Jinping one step close to a precedent-defying third term in power. Amid the pomp and propaganda at the Great Hall of the People, the Communist Party leadership will lay out policies to address the country’s biggest challenges, such as rebuilding growth slowed by Covid. The 3,000-or so deputies always give their ceremonial seal of approval to everything proposed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t drama. A property slump, a war in Europe and a Covid surge in Hong Kong leave lawmakers plenty to chew on.

While the party calls the shots in China, the NPC gives its proposals the force of law. The event has also for decades provided the world’s best chance to see China’s leaders in action, with Premier Li Keqiang outlining key policies in a speech and conducting what is often his only news briefing of the year. Xi has increasingly sought to use the NPC to further legitimize policy decisions, leading to some dramatic votes in recent years. In 2018, the body voted almost unanimously to lift limits on the president’s term, and in 2020 passed a resolution calling for a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong. The NPC runs alongside the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body of people from the arts, business and legal worlds, as well as party delegates. Together, they’re known as the Lianghui, or “Two Sessions.”