Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NPC, CPPCC and the Right

Of the annual "two meetings" held in March, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee (CPPCC) always feels like the neglected younger brother of the National People's Congress (NPC). The CPPCC is described best by

It is composed of the CPC, other political parties, mass organizations, different ethnic groups and representative public personages from all walks of life, representatives of compatriots of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as well as of returned overseas Chinese and other specially invited people.

Ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, many major issues concerning economic construction, political life, social life and the united front have gone through consultation in the CPPCC. Such consultation may take the form of full discussion and repeated exchanges of opinions so that the policies, regulations and laws taken by the state are adequate and well-prepared, in conformity with the demands and wishes of the great majority of the people and in due respect to the rational ideas of the minority.
So, basically, the CPPCC doesn't enact legislation (as the NPC does). It just gathers together the legal smaller parties--- The Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomingtang (the wing of the KMT that stayed behind on the mainland), The Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, The China Democratic National Construction Association (the party of businesspeople), etc.---and random others and"consults" with them, provided, of course, that their ideas are "rational."

Recently, the buzz coming out the CPPCC has been one of a rather nasty "rationalism." Pro-business groups have used the forum to push back against tax laws and the Labor Contract Law. As the Telegraph reports:

Miss Zhang [a tycoon and CPPCC delegate], whose paper recycling firm grew from nothing a decade ago to see her valued at £1.7 billion in the latest China rich lists, said those earning more than £84,000 a year - a huge sum in China - should have their top tax rate cut from 45 per cent to 30 per cent.

She also attacked the country's new labour law, which, in theory, provides workers with similar protections - apart from free trade unions - to counterparts in Europe.

She said it should be amended to exempt labour-intensive industries from a clause which provides almost unbreakable contracts to employees with more than 10 years' service.

Xinhua sees this kind of activism as an encouraging development in terms of deepening democracy--and it is. Real debate is always, of course, refreshing. The more the better.

However, there is something of a pattern at work here. We heard similar crowing in regards to the space provided to the public to criticize the Labor Contract Law when it was still a draft, a space that was quickly dominated by Western business groups and Chinese liberal (i.e. pro-market) intellectuals.

While the NPC and CPPCC have often heard complaints about labor rights (and Wen Jiabao highlighted employment standards in his work report to the NPC this year), outbursts like Miss Zhang's have been largely absent from the Left. Where are the farmers and workers? Why don't we hear about them pounding the table and demanding this and that? And wouldn't it, Xinhua, be encouraging if they did?

Looks like the shadow of Jiang Zemin still hangs over these chambers.


Anonymous said...

Hello again, I'm curious to know your thoughts about what's happening in Tibet. Do you plan on writing about that soon?

Old Tales Retold said...

Yeah, I'll have something up in a bit. I haven't checked out what you have to say yet! Will do.