The National People’s Congress: Rubber Stamp?

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In my last entry I succumbed to the reporter’s original sin and referred to the National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of some 2800 or so selected delegates that is a sort of Chinese parliament, as China’s “rubber stamp” parliament. So today, reflecting, I thought maybe that I was being was lazy, using a cliche when I was in a hurry and didn’t have the time to sit down and go into the nuances of exactly what the NPC is or what it does. To be more exact, here are the three votes from last year’s session that received the highest numbers of ‘no’ votes or abstentions:

Budget: 2,532(Yes), 220 (No), 131 (Abstain)
Court Report: 2,395(Yes), 359 (No), 127 (Abstain)
Procurate Report: 2,414 (Yes), 342 (No), 128 (Abstain)

(The procurate is similar, at least in concept, to the prosecutors office except of course that the whole legal system is basically a rigged fiction controlled by the Communist Party, except perhaps for the commercial side where the pressure of money is forcing some semblance of propriety). So basically, a few brave (foolhardy) souls do object but in general most things get passed automatically. If anything does cause problems, they are usually resolved behind the scenes. The property law, for example, that was passed lat year and enshrined some forms of property ownership (though not if you are a peasant, for details of which see this recent story we did), was delayed for several years by conservative forces (in China that means old guys who want to go back to the good old days of Mao Zedong), but there was no open debate about the issue and it was eventually passed by the usual thumping margin. This year the big issue is the creation of super-ministries (see here if this topic blows the wind up your skirt), which includes the possibility that the hamstrung State environmental Protection Administration might get ministerial status and some actually ability to do something more than whine. No doubt whatever transpires, the changes will be passed by similar margins to those above. So is it fair shorthand to call it “rubber stamp”? You tell me.