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Initiative ‘not a geo-strategic tool’

Writer:   | Editor: Lily A  | From:  | Updated: 2018-03-05

SEEING the Belt and Road Initiative as China’s geo-strategic tool is a misinterpretation, a spokesperson for the annual session of China’s top legislature said yesterday.

“Five years ago, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past five years, thanks to joint efforts from all parties, this initiative is being turned into action from a concept, and it is being translated into reality from a vision,” said Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC).

Actually, a lot of progress has been made, for example, developing infrastructure connectivity has yielded a lot of early harvests, policy communication is going deeper, cooperation mechanisms are being strengthened, and collaboration on the ground is unfolding across the board, according to Zhang.

All of these concrete results are examples of success that fully demonstrate how the Belt and Road Initiative has really responded to the trend for win-win cooperation and the shared aspiration for common development.

“To say that the Belt and Road Initiative is a geo-strategic tool, in my view, is a misinterpretation of the initiative,” Zhang said.

Constitutional revision

Revising part of China’s Constitution is an important task for the first annual session of the 13th NPC, Zhang said.

“The Constitution, which reflects the common will of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, is China’s fundamental law and the general charter for governing the country well and ensuring national security,” Zhang said.

More than 2,100 NPC deputies will deliberate on a draft constitutional revision at the session, which is set to open today.

The current Constitution has been proven a good law that fits China’s reality and meets the demands of the times, Zhang said.

“The Constitution can only ensure its lasting vitality by constantly being adapted to new situations by drawing on new experiences, confirming new achievements and setting new norms,” he continued.

It is necessary to appropriately amend the Constitution to incorporate major theoretical, practical and institutional achievements made by the Party and the people in order to give better play to the Constitution’s critical role in upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era, he said.

Amending the Constitution is a major event in the country’s political life and a significant legislative activity with wide-ranging implications, the spokesperson added.

Upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and reflecting the will of the people should be the principles for amending the Constitution.

The amendment should only include changes to part of the Constitution, not drastic revisions, Zhang said.

The amendment must follow due process, be based on broad consensus, and ensure the Constitution’s consistency, stability and authority, according to the spokesperson.

The first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was enacted in 1954. The current Constitution has been in place since 1982 and has undergone four amendments — in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.

Responding to a question on the proposed revision to a clause concerning the Chinese President’s term of office, Zhang said the CPC Constitution does not stipulate that the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairperson of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the CPC shall not serve more than two consecutive terms.

The nation’s Constitution has no such stipulation on the chairperson of the CMC of the PRC either, he continued.

Supervisory system

The reform of China’s supervisory system is aimed at enhancing the Party’s unified leadership on anti-corruption campaigns and covering all State functionaries, Zhang said.

The reform is essential for China’s reform of political institutions and a top-down design, said the spokesperson.

Sharing offices and staff with Party disciplinary inspectors, supervisory commissions are an anti-graft institution with Chinese characteristics, while the draft supervision law, to be submitted for the third reading at the session, is an anti-graft law, he said.

The supervision law and reform of supervisory institutions are of profound significance for enhancing the Party’s unified leadership against corruption, establishing an authoritative, efficient supervisory system, and modernizing China’s system and capacity for governance.

The 12th NPC Standing Committee has attentively studied and incorporated opinions and suggestions from various sectors, while the draft supervision law has gone through two readings and was published to solicit public opinions, he said.

Defense input rate

China’s defense input rate is lower than other major countries, Zhang said.

China’s defense budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product (GDP) and national fiscal expenditure compared with major world countries, he said.

Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries, he said.

A large part of the growth of China’s defense budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past, and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and to improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training conditions of grass-roots troops.

China will adhere to the path of peaceful development, he said.

“With a defense policy that is defensive in nature, the development of China will pose no threat to any other country,” he said.

Property tax legislation

China is accelerating efforts on the legislation of a closely watched property tax law, the spokesperson said.

The Budgetary Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee and the Ministry of Finance are jointly drafting the law, and debate on important issues and internal consultations are under way, Zhang told the press conference.

Work will be done to ensure that a draft will be put in place and submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for first reading at an early date, Zhang said.

‘Chinese model’

China will neither import foreign models nor export a Chinese model of development, according to Zhang.

China will follow its own path, and will not ask other countries to copy the Chinese practice either, he said.

Zhang said there is no one-size-fits-all model for development, and each country should develop its own path based on its own conditions.

China does not seek to overturn or replace the current international order. Rather, it will continue to be a defender of and contributor to the order, said Zhang.

China is willing to actively participate in global governance reform and construction, and to promote the evolution of the international order toward greater justice and equity, he said.

DPRK-U.S. talks

China hopes that talks between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States will be held “as early as possible” and that the good momentum on the Korean Peninsula will be maintained.

He said the situation on the Korean Peninsula is easing as the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since before and during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

“China welcomes the positive changes and hopes all parties will seize the opportunity to maintain the good momentum,” he said.

Calling the DPRK and the United States the principal parties of the Korean Peninsula issue, Zhang said China expects the DPRK-ROK ties to roll on while the DPRK-U.S. ties will begin to roll as soon as possible.

He said China noticed some positive remarks made by both the DPRK and the United States recently.

China will keep close communications with all concerned parties to push for peace and talks, in order to facilitate the settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue through political and diplomatic means, Zhang said.

Foreign investment

Chinese lawmakers are planning to combine the country’s three foreign investment laws and work on a new basic law to promote and protect foreign investment, the spokesperson said.

The new legislation will stick to policies of high-standard liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and significantly ease market access for foreign companies, Zhang said.

It will create a transparent, stable and predictable business environment for foreign investors and protect their rights and interests, ensuring that they enjoy equal treatment and a fair market, he said.

Chinese leadership pledged at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October that “China will not close its door to the world, and it will only become more and more open.”

The lawmakers are planning to introduce or modify more than 20 laws this year, including compiling the individual books of a civil code and formulating laws on specific taxes, according to Zhang.

A five-year legislative plan for the 13th NPC Standing Committee is also under way, which will be formulated on the basis of extensive consultation and thorough study, he said.

Taxation reform

China will push forward law-based taxation reform and press ahead with its legislative agenda, Zhang said.

Chinese lawmakers will work on the legislation of taxation, including a farmland occupation tax, vehicle purchase tax and resource tax this year, he said.

The top legislature will also revise the law on the administration of tax collection, he told the press.

Any new tax can only be levied by law, and the existing tax regulations will either be elevated into laws or terminated before 2020, according to China’s time frame and blueprint for law-based taxation reform.

China has so far created or modified six laws on taxation, including laws on an environmental protection tax, tobacco leaf tax and ship tonnage tax.

The NPC Standing Committee will urge government departments to draft laws on taxation and submit them to the committee for review, said Zhang.