Two Meetings, Three Hands

Some things just don’t translate well from Chinese into English. Take, for example the annual government meetings that are taking place in Beijing this week. In Chinese the meetings are referred to as Liang Hui (两会), which literally means “two meetings” (sometimes also translated as “sessions”).  Using such a term in English to describe a conference, however, leads only to blank stares.

Here’s what is happening.

While the Chinese Communist Party (specifically the Standing Committee of the Politburo) makes all the decisions, the National People’s Congress (NPC) “approves” the decisions, thus giving the impression that representatives of the people are voting on the laws.  The NPC is sometimes referred to as China’s parliament or legislature, but it only meets in session once a year (in March) and the proposed laws are never voted down. This is one of the two “meetings.”

The other meeting is the China People’s Political Consultative Conference (NPPCC). This group is made up of delegates from various segments of society (education, arts, religion, sports, etc.) whose main function is to make suggestions to the NPC regarding laws and regulations.

I once had a professor explain to me the relationship between the Party, the NPC, and the NPPCC by means of a ditty that described what each does with their hands:

共产党动手  The Communist Party extends it’s hands (does the work).

人大举手      The Congress raises its hands (approves the work).

政协拍手      The Consultative Conference claps its hands (praises the work).

Well, it’s all hands on deck in Beijing now, so here are seven handy resources to help you keep track of the proceedings (pardon the puns; I couldn’t help myself):

A good place to start is with the official website of the National People’s Congress.

The Wall Street Journal has produced a helpful video explaining it all.

Kawishma Varani, writing in a piece for the BBC titled “Why you should care about China's National People's Congress” lists four things that she will be watching: the 13th Five Year Plan; the economic growth target; zombie firms, and stimulus measures.

On Friday, Li Keqiang, China’s premier, delivered the government’s work report, which lays out its priorities for the coming year, revealing what’s on the mind of China’s leaders. The New York Times gives a helpful summary of the report.

You can read the full text of the report here.  

If you’re interested in how the meetings are covered in China, the state-run media outlet China Daily will publish a special section throughout the duration of the meetings.

And finally, the Wall Street Journal makes note of the fact that, unlike previous years, Beijing is shrouded in smog as the meetings open. It’s been dubbed Liang Hui Gray.

Image credit: Wikimedia