The annual sessions of China's national legislature and advisory body, commonly known as the Two Sessions, ran through March 11 and confirmed China's most relevant domestic and international goals.
The 2022 event commenced as the war between Russia and Ukraine continued to dominate global headlines. The Chinese Government is acutely aware of what is unfolding in that part of Eastern Europe, but it has chosen not to engage in the rhetorical blasts and calls for intervention. China practices what it preaches; anyone who follows Chinese politics knows of the many times the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reminded the international community to stay out of China's internal affairs.
Right now, China is acting on that policy as it continues to call on the Russians and the Ukrainians to find peaceful solutions that will end the fighting.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the media about the conflict on March 7. He stressed the need for all countries to remain committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. He also spoke of the importance that all nations respect and protect the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of other countries; uphold the principle of indivisible security and accommodate the legitimate security concerns of relevant parties; rely on dialogue, negotiation and peaceful means for dispute resolution; aim for lasting regional peace and stability and forge a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.
China is prepared to continue playing a constructive role in the facilitation of a dialogue for peace, and work alongside the international community for the necessary mediation, Wang said.
The messages before and during the Two Sessions served as an important reminder of the international image Chinese political leaders display on the global stage—professional and serious—and the oftentimes chaotic and negative words coming from Washington and other world capitals.
Remember the efforts made by the U.S. Congress throughout 2021 to craft legislation that one American politician after another insisted was necessary to counter Chinese authorities' "aggressive posture" toward Taiwan—and "the world." The value of such lawmaking was lost in the constant effort by a succession of political figures to criticize China on camera. The American media too often accepted these rhetorical claims without seeking their actual validation.
Meanwhile, whole-process democracy—a term that irks the West—remained a central theme at the Two Sessions.
"Whole-process people's democracy integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people's democracy with the will of the state. It is a model of socialist democracy that covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of society. It is true and high-quality democracy that works," said a government white paper titled China: Democracy That Works.
The Chinese people are showing greater interest in political participation, taking part in "democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight," it added.
"Whether a country is a democracy or not depends on whether its people are really the masters of the country," Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a central conference on work related to people's congresses in October 2021. "It is in itself undemocratic to use a single yardstick to measure the rich and varied political systems and examine the diverse political civilizations of humanity from a monotonous perspective."
A different word beginning with "d"—discord—has entered the overarching American political lexicon in recent times.
The most glaring, and dangerous, example took place on January 6, 2021, when people claiming to be patriots, but in reality no more than seditious rioters, attempted to prevent the will of the American people. They refused to accept that Congress was acting legally and within its authority to certify Joe Biden would become the next American president.
The jaw-dropping images of people scaling the exterior walls of The Capitol and then using whatever they had available to them in an effort to break into the respected structure called into question the fundamental health of U.S. democracy.
Meanwhile, when Biden delivered his State of the Union address on March 1, two Republican legislators heckled him, a breach of decorum that symbolized the overall decline in American civility.
Civility defines the Two Sessions, during which participants went over 10 agenda items this year. The economy certainly was one topic on many a mind, especially after China had announced its projected GDP growth for 2022 at 5.5 percent.
According to the World Bank, China's GDP growth percentage has remained strong over time. Using the last three "2" years as examples, growth was tagged at 14.2 percent in 1992, 9.1 percent in 2002 and 7.9 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, despite the pressures relating to the pandemic, supply chain issues and the lingering tariffs imposed by the U.S. during Donald Trump's presidency, growth was pegged at 8.1 percent in 2021. Although analysts differ on the year it will happen, the expectation remains China will overtake the U.S. and become the world's leading economy in the next 10 years.
The 2022 Two Sessions have provided China with opportunities to consistently discuss how it guarantees the needs of society supersede the wants of any single individual. Derided in the West as draconian, Beijing's commitment to locking down where confirmed COVID-19 cases occur, mass testing residents and deep-cleaning those locations has worked.
The virus is under control in China, a fact some foreign journalists covering the recent Winter Olympics seemed unwilling to acknowledge.
Of course the potential for flare-ups remains; when those happen, faith in the government continues. The West has rarely seen such confidence in "democratic" governments over the past two years, and the absence of trust further undermines the exceptionalism argument often heard in these countries.
Over the course of this year's Two Sessions, domestic and international audiences continued to hear a persuasive story coming from China, stating the country will unrelentingly adhere to its principles as it acknowledges the opportunities and challenges the future holds.
(Print Edition Title: Two Sessions, Many Ambitions)
The author is an associate professor of communication and organizational leadership at Robert Morris University, the U.S.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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