A panorama of the future of Chinese society mirrored in proposals, motions in two sessions

Editor's Note:

The second session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) and the second session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will conclude on March 11 and 10, respectively. The two sessions are a crucial window into China's whole-process people's democracy and will offer the world a window through which to observe the country's development and understand its policy direction for the following year.

The Global Times has initiated a series of articles under the theme "understanding China through motions and proposals." This article, the second installment of the series, glimpses into what kind of new social trends China is striving to create through the proposals and motions heatedly discussed in the two sessions.
A society that lightens burden for the young

During the two sessions, the well-known Chinese media personality Bai Yansong called for a more youth friendly society to help reduce their burdens, rather than blindly blaming younger generations for "ken lao" (or solely relying on parents). Bai's comments quickly won applause on the internet.

"Ken lao" has been a popular internet term in recent decades, describing a phenomenon of young people choosing to retreat to their homes and receive financial support from their families due to the competitive work environment.

China's 2024 Government Work Report pointed out to strengthen social security by reducing the burden of family planning, child-rearing, and education. Bai fully backs it, while calling for more reflection on how society could ramp up efforts to provide practical measures to reduce the burden on the younger generation.

From Bai's remarks, to motions calling for more affordable housing for young people; from proposals to including childcare in public services to empower young parents, from voices of lawmakers and political advisors to calls for more workplace off time for young employees … At this year's two sessions, issues that concern young people around employment, marriage and childbirth, housing, and healthcare have received attention from the public.

"China will improve the population development strategy, establish a policy system to boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing and schooling," noted a Report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC. In 2024, many local governments have proposed that they will introduce more policies to boost birth rates.

According to the 2024 Report on Child-Rearing Costs released by YuWa Population Research think tank, raising a child to the age of 18 costs 6.3 times the per capita GDP. Financial pressure has also become a major killer for many young Chinese couples who are afraid to have children.

During the two sessions, many CPPCC National Committee members and NPC deputies have suggested integrating childcare services into the public service system.

Wu Ruijun, a member of CPPCC National Committee, pointed out that the childcare service institutions in China set a relatively high price, as they're often faced with high operational costs such as rent and labor expenses. NPC deputy Zhong Can further suggested that relevant policies should be established, providing free or low-cost venues for universal childcare services and thus reducing their operational costs to the minimum.

More policies that promote work-life balance have become a new highlight of this year's two sessions.

NPC deputy Huo Qigang suggested increasing the number of days off for young people, implementing a mandatory paid annual leave policy, and improving regulations on illegal practices by companies, because he believes that young Chinese people today have obviously short annual leave.

Similarly, political advisor Lü Guoquan from Hong Kong delegation proposed to enshrine the right to rest after work in law, and to increase the cost of illegal overtime work by companies to rectify the prevalent culture of overtime work.

Lü stated in a media interview that in the age of the internet, digital information technology has blurred the "boundaries" between work and life, with some employers still assigning work to employees remotely through platforms like WeChat after work hours, requiring them to respond to work-related messages and sacrificing their personal rest time.

Therefore, Lü suggested introducing relevant offline rest rights in labor laws and increasing the cost of illegal overtime work imposed by companies.

CPPCC National Committee member Jiang Shengnan called for reducing the burden on grass-roots workers in her proposal, reducing the cumbersome formalities in the workplace and avoiding wasting a large amount of time and energy on report filling and material writing. She suggested the effective use of big data platforms to coordinate and improve the efficiency of grass-roots work.

"We can tell from the two sessions that China places high hopes on the youth and intends to ease their burden. One keyword for this year's two sessions is the new quality productive forces, with young people being the mainstay. There are proposals and motions aiming to enhance the productivity of young people by reducing their burdens. For example, there is a proposal that technological workers should be free from tedious administrative work. The relevant measures and policies fully demonstrate the effectiveness of our socialist market economy system and reflect that the Party and the government do care for our young people," Su Wei, a professor from the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times.

A society driven by scientific, tech innovation

The 2024 Government Work Report says that innovative development of the digital economy will be promoted, an Artificial Intelligence Plus initiative will be launched, and the country will consolidate and enhance its leading position in industries such as intelligent connected new-energy vehicles.

This not only demonstrates China's ambition in the field of emerging technologies, but also reflects that artificial intelligence has become a new driving force for economic and social development. Artificial intelligence has also become one of the hottest topics during the two sessions.

NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members at the two sessions discussed the future development of the artificial intelligence industry from different perspectives, providing ideas for the future development of China's artificial intelligence industry.

Lei Jun, NPC deputy, also the founder of Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi, proposed four motions, focusing on areas such as green and low-carbon, artificial intelligence, intelligent driving, and intelligent manufacturing.

In terms of artificial intelligence, Lei suggested to absorb artificial intelligence courses into the compulsory education stage, promoting artificial intelligence majors in universities, and encouraging large enterprises and training institutions to cultivate application-oriented talents in artificial intelligence.

Suggestions for the development of robots and intelligent manufacturing industry were also heatedly discussed in the two sessions. This year's key point "new quality productive forces" is also reflected on core element of technological innovation.

For example, China's robot industry is developing rapidly and is the world's largest consumer and producer of robots. High-end manufacturing plays an important role in China's economy. However, currently, more than 90 percent of robots used in high-end manufacturing are monopolized by foreign brands from developed Western countries.

In response to this, CPPCC National Committee member Sun Zhiqiang suggested that a national robot association should be established to create an innovative ecosystem for the robot industry that integrates technology, talent, platforms, finance, policies, and international cooperation, to promoting cross-sectoral coordination and achieve new quality productive forces.

Regional governments are also prioritizing innovation and emerging industries in their government reports this year. For instances, Central China's Anhui plans to become an innovation hub for quantum information, fusion energy and deep space exploration; while the city of Changsha in Central China is comprehensively building a global research and development center.

"Since the beginning of the reform and opening-up, the strategy for invigorating China through science and education has always been our focus. Today, only champions survive in the fierce global technological competition. That's why we are mobilizing the entire society to catch up with the new technological revolution," said Su.

A society that keeps high-level opening-up

In recent months, a series of measures have been implemented, sending a clear signal that China is steadfastly committed to expanding high-level opening-up to the outside world.

China introduced new immigration measures to encourage international travel to China; removed all restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector; issued "24 measures" to further optimize the foreign investment environment and has intensified efforts to attract foreign investment.

"One of the most core features of high-level opening-up to the outside world is institutional openness," Gu Xueming, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the media. He said that at this year's two sessions, how to steadily expand institutional openness in terms of rules, regulations, management and standards have attracted attention from the public.

Keywords such as new driving forces for foreign trade, cross-border e-commerce, supply chain, foreign investment, and institutional opening have frequently appeared in local government work reports and motions and proposals of delegates.

In last year's economic "report card," China's new energy vehicle production and sales accounted for over 60 percent of the global market share; exports of electric vehicles, lithium batteries, and photovoltaic products - the "new three items" - increased by nearly 30 percent.

In the eyes of NPC deputy Lin Zhiying, China has a massive consumer market that drives the global economy. China is cultivating new foreign trade momentum, strengthening global supply chain management, expanding overseas markets and investing overseas.

Su Wei believes that the motions and proposals delivered by NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members demonstrate the concerted efforts of the Party and the government to create a more friendly society, which can achieve the greatest possible convergence of interests.

"It's normal to encounter problems on the path of development. What matters is that we have the courage to face these problems and the methods to solve them. The motions and proposals are pooling people's wisdom, and bringing Chinese people together to forge ahead," said Su.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *