Amid hardships, Xi leads China's sprint to milestone
China convened the "two sessions" after an over two-month postponement due to COVID-19 as the country makes its homestretch toward "Xiaokang," a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
Attended by about 3,000 national lawmakers and 2,000 political advisors, the week-long event in Beijing provided reassurance that the timetable for the milestone goal will not change, despite the pandemic and global economic recession.
Xiaokang will be the first commitment to be fulfilled in the course of realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, joined national lawmakers and political advisors in discussing state affairs.
The nation's will and strength to overcome any difficulties shone through and a well-off society for 1.4 billion Chinese people is within sight.
A meal of meat and staple foods made from fine flour was an unrealistic wish during the harsh times decades ago in Liangjiahe, a village in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where Xi spent seven years of his youth working alongside peasants.
Now Xi is leading the nation's battle to wipe out the absolute poverty that has haunted the nation for thousands of years.
Around 5.51 million people remained impoverished at the end of 2019, but China intends to lift them from poverty by the end of this year. The total number of people emerging out of poverty will have reached 100 million since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012.
The weakest point in fulfilling the first centenary goal will thus have been shored up.
The commitment to eradicating poverty reflects China's people-centered philosophy. Xi stressed that it must be acted upon in every aspect of work.
Though caught off guard by COVID-19, China has never sought short-term economic gains at the cost of lives.
Among the deputies to the National People's Congress was Luo Jie, a 53-year-old medical professional from Hubei Province, which was hit hard by COVID-19. He told reporters how medics in his hospital spent 47 days saving an 87-year-old patient. In Hubei alone, more than 3,600 COVID-19 patients over the age of 80 have been cured.
Xi said he was really impressed by Luo's story.
"What is people first?" Xi asked before offering his own answer. "So many people worked together to save a single patient. This, in essence, embodies doing whatever it takes (to save lives)." During discussions, he also stressed fortifying the public health protection network.
The concept of Xiaokang also means democracy, the rule of law, fairness, justice and a good environment, all that the Chinese people yearn for.
The NPC Thursday adopted the Civil Code, the first law defined as a "code" of the People's Republic of China. The law will further refine the country's basic legal system and rules of conduct in the civil and commercial fields.
Sun Xianzhong, an NPC deputy who participated in compiling the civil code, said it protects people's rights to the fullest, ensuring their security, equality and dignity.
Meanwhile, the extensive range of topics discussed at the two sessions, including smart manufacturing, the application of 5G, elderly care, as well as the protection and inheritance of ethnic minority languages, have offered a glimpse into the world's second largest economy's quick bounce back from COVID-19.
China has also planned a further drop in energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product and a reduction in the discharge of major pollutants this year to promote the country's green development.
China has, for three consecutive years, topped a trust index surveyed worldwide, with record-high public confidence in its government, business, media and NGOs, according to the results of Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 published in March.
Marching through thick and thin
The Chinese economy contracted 6.8 percent year on year during the first quarter. Consumption, investment and exports have declined. Pressure on employment has risen significantly. Enterprises, especially micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, face growing difficulties.
Worldwide, the pandemic has ravaged the global economic order, disrupted industrial and supply chains and caused a contraction in international trade that is expected to fall between 13 and 32 percent in 2020, according to the WTO.
China has set no specific target for economic growth this year due to great uncertainties but made practical plans to ensure more than 9 million new urban jobs, give full play to over 100 million market entities and improve people's livelihoods.
Xi stressed analyzing China's economic situation from a comprehensive, dialectical and long-term perspective, urging efforts to foster new opportunities amid challenges and make new advances amid changes.
He also stressed creating a new development pattern in which domestic and foreign markets can boost each other, with the domestic market as the mainstay.
The government has decided to further cut taxes and fees, reduce enterprises' production and operating costs and increase financial support to keep business operations stable.
Liaoning Oxiranchem Inc, a chemical producer affected by COVID-19, saw its output fall by 26 percent and profits slump by 80 percent year on year in the first quarter.
Aided by government policies, Oxiranchem's production and sales in May are catching up, said Zhu Jianmin, chairman of the company and a political adviser. "The government's endeavor to safeguard the economy by unclogging and stabilizing industrial and supply chains will help more private businesses out."
This year's two sessions also sent signals of speeding up reforms in key areas, including state-owned enterprises, factor markets, finance and taxation, social security, and primary-level governance.
Priority will be given to new infrastructure, new urbanization initiatives and major projects, which will not only boost consumption but also facilitate structural adjustments and enhance growth sustainability.
China is also making greater efforts to foster a more vibrant and enabling business environment in which all companies are treated as equals and engaged in fair competition, with strengthened protection of intellectual property rights.
"The Chinese nation is adept at turning crises into opportunities, disadvantages into advantages, and turning costs into the driving force of progress," said Han Qingxiang, professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
Standing on the right side of history
Today's world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and is full of instability and turbulence.
"Protectionism is on the rise globally, but we should stand on the right side of history," Xi said, stressing commitment to multilateralism, greater democracy in international relations, as well as openness and win-win cooperation.
The China International Import Expo, the world's first national-level exhibition dedicated to import, will be held for the third year in Shanghai. More than 1,400 companies have signed up.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, Chinese investment in Belt and Road countries and regions increased by 11.7 percent year on year in the first quarter, along with a 3.2-percent growth in trade with them.
The future of China's diplomacy is premised on the commitment to working with all countries to build a community with a shared future for humanity, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of the NPC session. "No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony. We will always stand with the common interests of all countries."
In the meantime, China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development interests.
The national legislature Thursday adopted a decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.
China is set to make national security laws for Hong Kong, according to the decision, which also introduced measures to strengthen enforcement mechanisms such as allowing the central government's security organs to set up agencies in Hong Kong when necessary.
Lawmakers and political advisors agreed that such a move is imperative, pressing, justified, and legitimate.
The two sessions have charted the course for China's homestretch to a key milestone in modernization. For the first time in human history, a country with more than 1 billion people will be moderately well off.
Yet China is still the world's largest developing country. Xiaokang is a new starting point along the path toward a great national rejuvenation.
The pursuit of Chinese people's dream never ends. The new glory is coming.