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Leaner, more efficient two sessions on the agenda

By ZHANG YI| China Daily| Updated: March 9, 2021 L M S

NPC deputy Cui Wei.jpg

Cui Wei, a National People's Congress deputy and head of the Hangzhou Opera and Dance Drama Theater in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, speaks at group discussion of the Zhejiang delegation on the draft budget proposed at the top legislature's annual meeting in Beijing on Saturday. [Photo by Hu Yuanyong/China Daily]

Although the two sessions are back at its regular place in the calendar, after being postponed last year from March until May, the nation's biggest annual political gathering has taken on new characteristics this year against the backdrop of COVID-19 prevention and the pursuit of quality and efficiency.

This year's two sessions are not only shorter than usual, but also more streamlined in terms of its meetings and documents.

The major political event, which also includes more online meetings, will last for seven-and-a-half days this year instead of the usual two weeks.

The fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference started on the afternoon of March 4 and will end on March 10, and the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress is from March 5 to 11.

This year's agenda shows that the one-day break during the two sessions has been canceled, and the interval between the opening of the top political advisory body and the top legislature was reduced from two days to one.

However, the regular agenda items were not reduced. Apart from reviewing the regular documents, CPPCC National Committee members and NPC deputies also have to review an important document about the country's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).

The requirement for a pragmatic work style and the pursuit of efficiency can be seen in the speeches made by senior officials during the two sessions as the country embarks on a new journey of development.

While delivering the Government Work Report on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang urged governments at all levels to practice frugality in the interests of the people and to continue to tighten their own belts to ensure more financial input to improve people's livelihoods.

"For all of us in government, the people must always be uppermost in our minds. We must take a fact-based approach, and improve people's lives in a realistic and pragmatic way," he said.

While presenting a work report on Thursday, Wang Yang, chairman of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, called for efforts to improve the style of meetings and documents, eliminate bureaucratism and formalism and practice frugality.

The reports delivered by senior officials this year are shorter and take less time, but with more detailed figures and clear goals set. Many documents are no longer read out at the meetings, but are left for the participants to read.

For the first time, the Government Work Report has two versions. To shorten the meeting time, a shorter version was delivered by Premier Li at the meeting and the full version was distributed to delegates and will be made public once it is approved.

"It's a pragmatic approach," said Zhao Wanping, a national legislator and vice-president of Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences. "The premier's speech lasted only one hour and we can read the full version by ourselves."

Pursuit of frugality

Liu Hongyu, a national political adviser from the legal sector, said the pursuit of frugality can be seen in the organization of the two sessions, including fewer printed materials and signs warning against wasting food being displayed in many places.

"The sessions were shorter but more effective. Everyone got straight to the point in discussions, raising questions and suggestions directly," she said. "Every day back at the hotel, we need to sort out our thoughts and answer questions from reporters online, and sometimes we keep busy until midnight."

To condense the duration of the two sessions, some meetings were scheduled for evenings. For example, the NPC held its preparatory meeting at 8 pm on Thursday to adopt its agenda. After that, it held its news conference at 9:40 pm.

Many face-to-face situations have been moved online to reduce the number of participants and to ensure the effectiveness of epidemic prevention measures. Gone are the days when reporters swarmed around the Great Hall of the People, trying to interview NPC deputies and CPPCC members. Now they can get interviews by making an appointment.

Virtual connection

The regular news conferences and sideline interviews are held via video link, with interviewees in the Great Hall of the People and reporters at the Media Center Hotel. Reporters are required to wear masks and the microphones they use are sterilized.

Zhao said he was interviewed through various channels, including by social media, phone and video. He also made a video blog about his daily routine as an NPC deputy to let the public know about the work of legislators.

"As plenary meetings have been condensed, delegates can have more time in smaller group discussions so that we can have deeper and more thorough exchanges to generate more ideas, which is also more practical," he said.

"As the country starts the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), it requires us to be pragmatic and overcome bureaucracy at work," he said, adding that he will spend more time and energy at the grassroots and on the front line of agricultural production in order to contribute to rural vitalization.