Year in Review: The NPC and the Observer in 2018

On the last day of 2018, we take a look at the National People’s Congress’s and this Observer’s work in the past year.

The NPC in 2018

In 2018, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) held nine sessions—lasting 29 days in total—which included not one, but two rare special sessions: at the first one, it reviewed a draft constitutional amendment, and at the second, it adopted a resolution on ecological and environmental protection in support of the Communist Party’s ongoing “tough war” against pollution. The 13th NPC met for its first, 15½-day annual session in March. Altogether, the NPC and its Standing Committee enacted nine new laws, approved major changes to seven, and reviewed another nine legislative bills (see lists at the end of this section). In comparison, the new NPC has proved to be more productive than its predecessor (in office from Mar. 2013 to Mar. 2018) during the first year of their respective terms (see graph below).

* Excluding decisions on legal issues, such as the one approving the State Council reorganization plan.
** Excluding amendments adopted after a single round of deliberations.

And now, we present our annual list of highlights of the NPC’s work in the past year, in no particular order of significance (except, perhaps, the first):

  • On March 11, the NPC adopted an amendment to China’s Constitution that, most significantly, eliminated the presidential term limit and, in conjunction with the Supervision Law [监察法] it adopted a few days later, created a new branch of government in charge of discipline and anti-corruption—the supervision commissions [监察委员会].
  • On March 16, the NPC approved a sweeping restructuring of the State Council. The reorganization will have a long-lasting impact on this NPC’s legislative agenda. The NPCSC has already approved three batches of technical amendments in 2018 to reflect the organizational changes. And more laws will need to be amended—and some quite extensively—in the years to come.
  • In March, we also saw the creation of the NPC Constitution and Law Committee [全国人大宪法和法律委员会] as part of this year’s broader state institutional reform (which encompassed the State Council reorganization). Then in June, in accordance with the reform plan, the NPCSC vested in the Committee duties and powers relating to constitutional interpretation and constitutional review. The Committee has yet to exercise these new authorities, but could do so sometime during the 13th NPC’s term (ending in Mar. 2023). And it will be a historic event (for better or worse) whenever it does.
  • In early September, the 13th NPCSC released its five-year legislative plan, the blueprint for its legislative agenda in the next four years. The importance of this document thus, we think, needs no further explanation. You can read the first part of our analysis of the plan here. And yes, there is going to a second part. Eventually.
  • The NPCSC achieved a milestone in August when it considered all remaining parts of the draft Civil Code—that is, the Code minus the General Provisions already enacted. The submission of the Separate Parts (as they are known) as planned keeps the legislature on schedule to adopt the Code in early 2020.
  • Last week, the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission recommended the abolition of the infamous administrative punishment for prostitution, known as “custody and education” [收容教育]. While the recommendation deserves applause, it does not signal any genuine development of the rule of law in China, as it seems to have been grounded more in the practical disuse of the punishment than in any concern for flouting the rule of law.

In 2018, the NPCSC also authorized trial in absentia in certain types of criminal cases, reformed the individual income tax, updated the judicial system’s governing laws, made “desecrating or negating the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs” an offense, and enacted laws regulating e-commerce and soil pollution. The list could go on, but we will stop there lest this year-end review increasingly read like the NPCSC’s 2019 work report to the NPC.

New laws passed in 2018

  1. Supervision Law [监察法] (Mar. 20)
  2. People’s Assessors Law [人民陪审员法] (Apr. 27)
  3. Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law [英雄烈士保护法] (Apr. 27)
  4. E-Commerce Law [电子商务法] (Aug. 31)
  5. Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law [土壤污染防治法] (Aug. 31)
  6. International Criminal Justice Assistance Law [国际刑事司法协助法] (Oct. 26)
  7. Fire and Rescue Ranks Regulations [消防救援衔条例] (Oct. 26)
  8. Farmland Occupancy Tax Law [耕地占用税法] (Dec. 29)
  9. Vehicle Acquisition Tax Law [车辆购置税法] (Dec. 29)

Major revisions & amendments passed in 2018

  1. Constitutional Amendment [宪法修正案] (Mar. 11)
  2. Amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law [个人所得税法] (Aug. 31)
  3. Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law [刑事诉讼法] (Oct. 26)
  4. Revision to the People’s Courts Organic Law [人民法院组织法] (Oct. 26)
  5. Revision to the People’s Procuratorates Organic Law [人民检察院组织法] (Oct. 26)
  6. Amendment to the Rural Land Contracting Law [农村土地承包法] (Dec. 29)
  7. Revision to the Civil Servants Law [公务员法] (Dec. 29)

Legislative bills still pending by end of 2018

  1. Draft revision to the Securities Law [证券法] (reviewed in Apr. 2015 & Apr. 2017)
  2. Draft revision to the Judges Law [法官法] (reviewed in Dec. 2017 & Dec. 2018)
  3. Draft revision to the Procurators Law [检察官法] (reviewed in Dec. 2017 & Dec. 2018)
  4. Draft Basic Healthcare and Health Promotion Law [基本医疗卫生与健康促进法] (reviewed in Dec. 2017 & Oct. 2018)
  5. Draft Separate Parts of the Civil Code [民法典分编] (reviewed in Aug. & Dec. 2018)
  6. Draft amendment to the Drug Administration Law [药品管理法] (reviewed in Oct. 2018)
  7. Draft amendment to the Patent Law [专利法] (reviewed in Dec. 2018)
  8. Draft Foreign Investment Law [外商投资法] (reviewed in Dec. 2018)
  9. Draft amendment to the Land Management Law [土地管理法] & Urban Real Estate Administration Law [城市房地产管理法] (reviewed in Dec. 2018)
  10. Draft Resource Tax Law [资源税法] (reviewed in Dec. 2018)

The NPC Observer in 2018

In 2018, this Blog published 49 blog posts and received over 52,000 pageviews (a roughly 75% increase over 2017) by readers hailing from 148 jurisdictions worldwide. About a third of that traffic came from the United States, followed by Hong Kong, mainland China, and the United Kingdom. And we have just surpassed 1,700 followers on Twitter!

Our translation of the latest constitutional amendment was the most viewed post in 2018, narrowly beating our summary of the State Council reorganization plan. Given the readers’ continued interest in China’s Constitution, we have made a full English translation of the amended Constitution (available exclusively on China Law Translate) as our New Year’s gift to you all. (Many thanks to Taige Hu for helping prepare the translation.)

In 2018, we made a few changes to the Blog that we thought we should mention here:

  • In case you have not noticed, we gave the Blog a new look! We changed the fonts and the hyperlink color, replaced the header image, and made other less noticeable modifications throughout. (If you are wondering what the Blog looked like before, we refer you to the Wayback Machine.)
  • We introduced a new, main feature of the Blog: the creatively named LawList (which is essentially, you know, a list of laws). It is a page featuring a restyled version of the 13th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan, where we track the status of each legislative project. An accompanying feature of LawList is an individual page for each major bill before the legislature (example)—on which we list all information relevant to the bill (that we could think of), including its legislative history, different versions of the text, and our own coverage of it.
  • We started a new, nonregular series called Recording & Review that discusses new developments in the NPCSC’s recording-and-review work. We have published four parts so far. Don’t know what that is? We refer you to the first part of the series where we offered a comprehensive overview of “recording and review” [备案审查].
  • We also added new resources on the Blog. Under “References” in the menu bar, you will find a bilingual organizational chart of the State Council as well as a new tax legislation tracker, where we discussed the NPCSC’s plan to elevate all interim tax regulations to statutes by 2020 and continue to track its progress. We also revamped the NPC-related statutes section in the sidebar.

Finally, we decided to start accepting donations in 2018. If you have enjoyed our blogposts or other resources in 2018, please consider donating a few dollars to help us keep the blog running in 2019 and beyond. Thank you!

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Before ending 2018’s last blogpost, we would like to recognize the incredible work of the countless journalists who in the past year have helped shed much-needed light on the bleak situations in Xinjiang. Your reporting has kept us informed and we salute your bravery and commitment.

That concludes our programming in 2018. Best wishes to everyone in 2019.

Happy New Year!

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