Do you expect the Chinese leadership to publish a growth target for 2020?
It would be a first if no target is set at all. It’s possible that Beijing wants to signal its self-confidence by naming a number. With real growth likely to be around three percent growth rather than the six percent previously targeted, that seems unlikely. That would be the lowest value in decades – but probably still the highest worldwide this year. But I also think it is possible that Li Keqiang could announce a more flexible target – for example, a growth range for GDP.
Do you expect legislative changes in the health sector and for epidemic control?
Yes, I expect a number of measures in this area. New laws and legislative changes were already introduced in immediate response to the coronavirus. These included a law on the prevention of animal epidemics, a law on wildlife protection and a biosecurity law. The sale and consumption of wild animals has already been prohibited by them. But there are a number of other rules and laws to prevent and manage epidemics on the NPC’s agenda.
Health-care reforms have long been a priority, and the crisis has underscored the urgent need for health-system improvements. The coronavirus crisis has driven digitization forward in particular, but also raised pressing questions about the financing of health insurance. More efficient crisis management and better epidemic control will certainly also feature – China will also be keen to present itself as a global leader in these areas. Whether this will lead to fundamental changes remains doubtful. After the SARS epidemic in 2003, China announced changes – and in some cases even initiated. But China was still hit harder this time.
What important resolutions and laws are on the agenda?
Important and much discussed in China is the new civil code that is on the NPC’s agenda. It is meant to improve protections of personal rights, privacy and personal data – important not least because personal health and travel data were collected on a grand scale during the crisis.
China's trading partners should, among other things, keep an eye on the adoption of the Export Control Law. It is meant to regulate China's exports more clearly – even if latest draft it still raises questions, for example about dealing with re-imports and so-called blacklists.
In how far will international tensions impinge on the NPC?
The plenary session is focused on domestic policy. But external factors naturally play into economic development and the political priorities that Prime Minister Li will outline on Friday. China's short- and medium-term prospects remain strongly dependent on the trade war with the US. Beijing sees itself under pressure to become more independent of external economic developments, while at the same time trying to control them better. China will strive for self-sufficiency even more so than before. But beyond indirect references to "major challenges in the international arena", I do not expect Li Keqiang to use his report to the NPC to explicitly talk about the US or to recent statements by US President Trump.
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