The Pomp and Politics of China's Annual Congress

For almost two weeks, the Great Hall of the People in Beijing takes center stage.

 

The National People's Congress is many things. It's China's top legislative body and a rubber stamp for policies hammered out behind closed doors by the ruling Communist Party. It's the only time each year that many top officials in the world's second-biggest economy face the press. Above all, it's a master class in orchestration. The pageantry concludes March 15. 

Two members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police, known for their precision goosesteps, march past the Great Hall in Tiananmen Square. The vast square has played stage to the some of modern China's most pivotal moments, including the 1989 pro-democracy protests that ended in a military crackdown.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Members of the People's Liberation Army file into the Great Hall ahead of the NPC's ceremonial opening session on Sunday, March 5. The descendant of Mao Zedong's revolutionary Red Army retains an influential political role and holds seats on the legislature.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Attendants stand sentry on the Great Hall's steps Sunday as a delegate arrives for the first session. Although the NPC largely serves to ratify Communist Party decisions, it presents a rare opportunity gain insight into officials' thinking.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Attendants mind a Great Hall stairway Sunday, March 5, as delegates prepare to hear Premier Li Keqiang's annual work report. Opened in 1959 to mark the 10th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the 172,000-square-meter (1.8 million square feet) structure reflects an austere communist ideal.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A man assembles an elaborate camera rig during a news conference at the Great Hall. The gatherings draw more than 3,000 journalists, including 1,250 from overseas and hundreds more from China's tightly controlled local media..
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A member of the PLA band awaits the opening of the session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Attendants fill tea cups before top leaders flow into the Great Hall for the NPC's opening session. The servers glide across desks in unison, one manifestation of the choreography that pervades the proceedings.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Li, China's premier and No. 2 leader, speaks to President Xi Jinping after delivering his work report on Sunday, March 5. Li's speech emphasizing Xi's central leadership role showed how much Xi has consolidated control since taking power in 2012.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A member of the People's Liberation Army carries his breakfast delegate buses delegates near the Great Hall.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A woman holding a Chinese national flag sits at Tiananmen Square.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A man gazes across Tiananmen Square at the Great Hall. Entry to the square is restricted and security cordons close off most of the area when delegates are around.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg