In China, the week-long annual session of the Chinese National People’s Congress began on Friday, which was canceled around the same time last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the session, reforms were proposed, which will be a severe blow to Hong Kong’s already limited democracy.
- China’s military budget will increase by almost 7% this year.
- Reforms are planned that will weaken Hong Kong’s many victims.
- China was the only world power to maintain economic growth last year.
- Given the demographic crisis, China will also have to raise its retirement age.
At a time of growing Western concerns about China’s growing influence in the world, including in the military, the Chinese Ministry of Finance announced at the beginning of the session that the military budget would be increased by 6.8% this year. China’s military budget is already the second largest in the world after the United States, up 6.6% last year. Beijing plans to spend 1.36 trillion yuan, or 176 billion euros, on defense this year.
Latvian Radio correspondent Rihards Plūme about the Chinese Congress00:00 / 04:07
The Congress is also expected to report on Beijing’s efforts to tighten control of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that came back under communist China in 1997. Beijing promised that Hong Kong would adhere to the “one country, two systems” principle, which would allow the people of Hong Kong to maintain the features of democracy, such as freedom of expression and the press. In recent years, however, Hong Kong activists have complained that Beijing is increasingly trying to restrict these freedoms.
Hong Kong is protesting against the curtailment of democracy
“We have seen very difficult days in Hong Kong lately, and in recent months we have seen time and time again that Beijing has decided to change the laws, to set the direction and the rules in Hong Kong. I think the National People ‘s Congress is likely to pass more laws this session that will have a direct impact on Hong Kong and reduce Hong Kong’ s ability to govern Hong Kong, “said Fraser Howie, a Chinese political scientist.
One of the proposals is that Beijing could give itself the right to veto any candidate for a seat on the Hong Kong Legislative Council. The aim of the reform is to ensure that only Chinese “patriots” are in power in the Hong Kong municipality.
“In recent years, we have seen people in Hong Kong who have flown to, for example, Washington, not once, demanding sanctions against Hong Kong and the whole of China. No matter how we define patriots, I think we can name quite clearly those who are not.
The unpatriotic behavior of these people in many parts of the world would be described as treacherous. Therefore, they are not patriots and should not be part of the Hong Kong administration, “said Liang Zzenin, former head of the Hong Kong administration.
The proposal now envisages entrusting the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong Electoral Commission to elect a large number of members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and to participate directly in the nomination of all members of the Legislative Council. It remains to add that Congress almost always approves all the proposals submitted to it, so this is not expected to be an exception either.
The European Union has already responded to the proposal by calling on Beijing to carefully consider any decision on the reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system and its political and economic consequences.
Hong Kong’s democratic rights activists believe that this step completely abolishes the special democratic rights that were to remain in force for half a century, as provided for in China’s 1997 agreement with Britain.
Chinese authorities arrested 47 activists on Sunday on charges of threatening national security. As a result, virtually all prominent defenders of Hong Kong’s democratic rights are now either being tried or exiled abroad.
The five-year plan will be approved
This year’s session of the National People’s Congress is also special in that it takes place a few months before the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. The current five-year plan will be approved during the session.
It sets administrative priorities for China until 2025 and covers everything from economic development to climate change and technology research. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to make China a “high-income” country by 2025, and a “middle-income” country by 2035. To do this, Beijing needs to make a breakthrough in key areas that are currently dependent on foreign technologies, such as operating systems.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Kechyan has announced that the Chinese government plans to achieve economic growth above 6% this year. Although the Covid-19 pandemic started in China last year, the authorities have taken decisive action to curb the pandemic, life has returned to normal and China was the only world power to achieve economic growth last year.
“China’s development this year will still face severe risks and challenges. However, the basis for long-term economic recovery has not changed. We need to strengthen our confidence and overcome the difficulties,” Li Kechyan said.
It should be noted that this year, politicians will also discuss China’s vision for development until 2035 – an unusually far-sighted plan, the details of which are largely unknown. This long-term plan could also indicate how long President Xi Jinping sees himself in power, and experts predict that Xi will continue to hold the presidency after the current term expires in 2022.
The retirement age will have to be raised
One of the proposals in the next five-year plan is to start gradually raising the retirement age, reports TASS.
In China, the retirement age has not changed for decades: it is 60 for men and 55 for women in white-collar occupations. However, in recent years, China has seen a low birth rate and an increasing proportion of older people, so it is clear that the current system will not be sustainable in the long run.
Last year, China had the lowest birth rate in 70 years. This is a consequence of the ‘one child policy’, which was abolished a few years ago, but as a result of years of ‘one child policy’, China is now short of women of childbearing age who could produce offspring. At the same time, the average age of the population is increasing; There are already about 250 million elderly people over the age of 60 in China.
In Japan and Taiwan, the minimum age for claiming an old-age pension is 65, but it is also planned to increase it.
The global average retirement age is 62.7 years for men and 61.3 years for women, according to a study by Allianz.