South Asia and Beyond

Ahead Of Two Sessions, China Drops 3-Decade Old Media Briefing Practice

 Ahead Of Two Sessions, China Drops 3-Decade Old Media Briefing Practice

China has ended a three-decades old practice where the premier briefs the media, domestic and foreign, on the proceedings of the annual parliamentary session. The session begins on Tuesday when the National People’s Congress (NPC) or parliament, meets in Beijing for about two weeks to vote on legislation and personnel assignments. The NPC works at the direction of the Communist Party and is subservient to it, but for international media it gives an opportunity to ask questions since officials don’t normally interact with the press.

Now this is being ended with the NPC spokesman indicating that a briefing could happen only in “extraordinary circumstances”. Exactly what those extraordinary circumstances could be was not clarified.

The Guardian reporting on this development, said it could be related to the economic headwinds China is facing, the growing concern among international business and investors and “decreasing transparency on government indicators”.

Other reports pointed to the declining power of the premier’s office vis a vis President Xi Jinping’s centralising tendencies.

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It would also appear that the government did not want to be asked questions relating to the disappearance of key senior officials including former foreign minister Qin Gang, or defence minister Li Shangfu. Incidentally, the Guardian report also noted that four senior aerospace/defence officials had been removed, perhaps as part of an ongoing and secretive purge of the military.

Hours after the announcement by the NPC spokesman, an old article titled “The Past and Present of the Premier’s Press Conference” on NetEase News, a news aggregation platform, was deleted. Weibo also began restricting comments on the issue.

That aside, Tuesday’s meeting of the NPC is important because Premier Li Qiang will deliver the work report, and two other reports, one from the National Development and Reform Commission, and the other from the Ministry of Finance. These will give details of the government’s economic plans and of course the budget. How much the government will spend on the People’s Liberation Army will also be disclosed.

Resham

Research Associate at StratNewsGlobal, A keen observer of #China and Foreign Affairs. Writer, Weibo Trends, Analyst. Twitter: @resham_sng

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