The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the venue of the annual full session of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature (WEI YAO)

Qin Yanbei, general manager of a private company, attended a special meeting in China’s capital where he met Premier Li Keqiang in February. Li chaired the seminar, soliciting opinions on the draft government work report, which reviews the government’s performance in 2022 and outlines priorities for the coming year.

Qin’s company, in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, manufactures and sells household items such as toys, festive decorations, candles and lamps. During the gathering, he shared his suggestions drawn from the perspective of his work, such as further relieving the financial difficulties of small and medium-sized companies, and increasing subsidies for research and development projects of these enterprises.

Noting the challenges private companies face in China, Li urged more efforts to stabilize the economy and boost economic recovery.

Aside from Qin, representatives from a range of other fields also expressed their thoughts and opinions. Similar gatherings take place every year in the lead-up to the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC). This year’s session will get underway on March 5 in Beijing. The NPC is China’s supreme state authority, composed of deputies elected by provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, special administrative regions and armed forces.

There is an online opinion-seeking campaign as well, inviting the general public to offer advice and suggestions. All suggestions will be considered or included in the government work report to be delivered by the premier at the session’s opening meeting. This is a way people, regardless of social or professional status, can participate in their country’s decision-making process.

“I have served as a representative of construction workers, especially migrant workers from rural areas, in the hopes of further improving their living and working conditions. I will continue to do so at the upcoming NPC session,” Zou Bin, an NPC deputy and a quality control manager at China Construction Fifth Engineering Bureau in Hunan Province, said.

Approximately 30 percent of NPC deputies are officials, while workers and farmers account for less than 20 percent, but their proportion has been on the rise.

China’s major policies and decisions are not rubber-stamped during the annual legislative session; they need to undergo several rounds of public solicitation, discussion and revision, Chai Baoyong, head of the Institution of Intraparty Rules and Regulations and State Supervisory Studies at the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (UCASS), told Beijing Review. “It’s a long incubation process,” he said. “The reports presented to the public at the NPC session are relatively mature. But still, modifications will be made after deputies have discussed them.”

NPC deputies serve as a link connecting government and public. Part of their role includes regularly carrying out field research to gain understanding of economic and social development, performance of duties by government agencies, as well as public opinion. Based on this insight, they formulate suggestions, which they then submit to the NPC. Government agencies are obligated to consider these suggestions and give feedback. As legislators, deputies can also put forward motions on making, amending and interpreting laws.

The proposed agenda items for the First Session of the 14th NPC this year include routine tasks such as reviewing the government work report and deliberating on the annual plan for social and economic development, as well as the plans for central and local budgets.

Lawmakers are also slated to review a draft amendment to the Legislation Law, which regulates the legislative process. In addition, the 14th NPC is expected to elect and appoint leaders of state institutions during this session.

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, the country’s top political advisory body that usually holds its annual session in tandem with the NPC, will also elect a new leadership this year.

Zhou Shaolai, Deputy Dean of the UCASS School of Government, believed one of the focuses at this year’s sessions will be on the economy. “Following a three-year-long battle against COVID-19, economic recovery and employment are the government’s top priorities,” he said.

In February, the International Monetary Fund projected that China’s economy will grow by 5.2 percent in 2023, 0.8 percentage points higher than its forecast in October last year.

“Boosting consumption is a key issue. It is crucial to boost consumer and market confidence and improve overall expectations for the future,” Chai said.