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Associated Press | Mar 13
China's National People's Congress sealed the country's once-in-a-decade leadership transition by formally confirming Xi Jinping as China's new pre...
To give us some insight into this year's session of the National People's Congress, we're joined on Skype today by Bob Kapp. Bob is the former head of the US-China Business Council and an adviser to LinkAsia. Thanks for joining us today, Bob. First of all, what's your take of the People's Congress? I mean, is it just a rubber stamp for decisions that have already been made or does it actually have some real authority?
Bob Kapp, China Business Consultant:
Well, the People's Congress legislature, it does pass laws. It's got a whole process of drafting and reviewing and reading two or three times over before passing laws, and it will do some of that at this session. At the same time, the message of the People's Congress meeting so regularly every first week of March is a message of regularity and stability to the country as a whole. Along with a number of other measures, like retirement, age limits and term limits, or rather specific length of terms for high leaders, the regime over the last 25 years has worked very hard to create and make sure people understand that there's regularity and structure to the highest levels of political process. So the message is, "We're meeting on schedule, we're doing what we always do."
There's a recent survey taken by the China Institute for Reform and Development, which calls itself an independent think tank, showing that 85 percent of opinion makers, which includes officials, academics and businesspeople, say that there's no consensus on reform inside the party and that vested interests are seriously impeding reform. What kinds of reforms are they talking about, and who's standing in their way?
You know, Yul, there is a broad sense among those who think and write about it in China now that something needs to be done, and that the current operating system of the country is pretty much going to run out of gas, and that new reforms, whether economic or political, need to be undertaken. The World Bank and a major Chinese think tank have just come out with a big and very important paper called China 2030, laying out a series of economic restructurings and re-approaches to the economy that China needs to undertake if it doesn't want to stagnate over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. The quieter, but equally important, discussion is political. And on that, there are people now, sometimes think tank people, liberal, intellectual people online, who are saying that the system as it currently is operating, it needs to be really shaken up, that interest groups, coalitions of high officials and powerful industrialists have gained too much power over the country as a whole, and that there needs to be some kind of a reinvigoration of the political process. What it should be, however, is very much under discussion. Nobody's got a detailed plan.
Now it seems that a lot of Chinese with money are voting with their feet. A survey taken by the Bank of China last fall found that nearly half the country's millionaires want to leave or are making active plans to take their money, their kids, and themselves out of China. What does that tell you about how people think about China's future?
Well this is comforting for Americans, who like to say, "Aha, we're better than they are. They all want to get out and come over here, where the air is cleaner and the opportunities are great, and so forth." But there's more to it than that. The Chinese of today have a large number of people who have a kind of disposable income and wealth that has been unknown in the recent history, modern history of the country. At the same time, China has become a world player in every sense. And some of those people are saying, "Look, the world is out there. We should go out and take part in it, participate in it. We should send our kids to schools in other countries if they can get a good education there. We might want to make productive investments of our own wealth, our own business wealth in other countries." And America looks good in that regard. The third thing, of course, is back to my notion that there is a sense in China that things are coming to a boil, that tensions that have been below the surface are now breaking up on the surface. I'm sure there are some people with wealth in China who are saying, "Look, we need a place to get to if we need to get out of town for a while, if we need to get out of Dodge. And we need some place where we can send our kids to buy a house and get a job or in one way or another have a base outside of China just in case the tensions and the indecisions, whether they be political, economic or social that we now see in our country, get to the point where we no longer feel secure."
Great, thanks so much, Bob. Bob Kapp is a business consultant and former head of the US-China Business Council. A quick fact about the 3,000 delegates to the National People's Congress. The wealthiest two percent of the NPC has an average wealth of almost USD$1.5 billion. Compare that with the wealthiest top two percent of the US Congress, which has an average wealth of USD$323 million, less than a quarter of their Chinese counterparts.