In the midst of the coronavirus crisis which has infected nearly 80,000 people, including more than 2,500 fatally, China decided Monday 24 February to postpone indefinitely the annual session of its parliament normally scheduled for March 5.
In the current context of quarantine and confinement affecting hundreds of millions of Chinese, such a gathering of more than 3,000 deputies in the capital Beijing seemed unthinkable. For logistical and sanitary but also political reasons.
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For leader Xi Jinping, who is facing the most serious national crisis since coming to power in 2012, it is about showing the people that he is leading “The battle against the virus” in priority and leaves economic decisions for later.
Beijing imposes a quarantine of 14 days for anyone arriving there
A new date is expected to be announced later, the National People’s Assembly (ANP) standing committee said, but it seems clear that in the current environment it is impossible to predict precisely.
The postponement decision has been pending since the announcement last week of a postponement proposal. Bringing over 3,000 deputies and their teams from across the country to the capital is mission impossible. The capital imposes a 14-day quarantine at home or at the hotel on anyone arriving in Beijing from another region of China. “Postponement is necessary” to make sure that “Attention is focused on preventing and controlling the epidemic”, pleaded a senior parliamentary official Zang Tiewei last week.
In the epidemic context, difficult to announce growth targets
Historically, except during the upheavals of the cultural revolution (1966-1976), the plenary session of the National Assembly has been ritually held every year since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping came to power.
Since 1985, it has systematically started in March and has even started without fail on March 5 since 1998, as a symbol of the stability of the regime which just celebrated its 70th anniversary last year.
Even though the major decisions submitted to the ANP are already taken by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the annual session gives rise to certain ritual announcements, such as the objective of economic growth for the coming year. In the epidemic context, it would have been very difficult to predict the growth of the country, which had been paralyzed for a little over a month.