NPC Standing Committee Releases 2021 Legislative Plan

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On Wednesday, April 21, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released its legislative plan for 2021 (Plan). The Plan was preliminarily approved in November 2020 and finalized by the Council of Chairpersons on April 16. The NPCSC’s annual legislative plans serve two primary purposes: listing bills that are scheduled for review or research each year, and laying down guiding principles for all facets of the NPCSC’s annual legislative work. As usual, we will focus on the NPCSC’s 2021 legislative agenda below.

The Plan schedules 54 legislative projects for review in 2021, the largest batch ever included in a publicly available annual legislative plan. It continues two features first introduced in the 2020 legislative plan. First, it articulates a few policy goals the NPCSC seeks to achieve with this year’s legislation and lists the bills associated with each goal. This year’s main themes include government institutional reforms, economic reforms, rural revitalization, environmental protection, education, public health, national and public security, as well as military and national defense. Second, the Plan again does not assign the bills to be submitted for an initial review to particular NPCSC sessions, presumably to afford the NPCSC more flexibility in scheduling bills that are still being drafted.

As the Plan was first adopted in late 2020, it includes the following bills that have since been enacted:

Seventeen other bills have also been submitted for deliberation as planned and are still pending:

The remaining four bills that were reviewed in 2020 will return for further review in 2021 according to the following schedule:

The NPCSC is scheduled to consider another 25 bills later this year:

With two exceptions, all these projects have appeared in the 13th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan or its 2020 special public health legislative plan: the Public Health Emergency Response Law and updates to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law. Xi Jinping first disclosed the plan to enact a Public Health Emergency Response Law in a June 2020 speech at a symposium on strengthening China’s public health system. It would likely supplement the Emergency Response Law, a general statute (planned for revision this year) that deals with natural disasters, accidents, and social unrests, in addition to public health crises. We have no further insights into the possible changes to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law.

Consistent with a recent Communist Party policy document on legal reform, the Plan calls for “studying and initiating compilations of legal codes such as environmental code, education code, basic administrative code, and codifications of other areas of administrative law for which the conditions are ripe.”

Finally, the Plan concludes the NPCSC’s 2021 agenda with a list of “preparatory projects”: bills that will eventually be enacted, but for now are lower priority, so unlikely to come before the NPCSC in 2021 (bill pages are not always available for these projects):

Untitled projects on preventing and combatting online crime and protecting the Yellow River are also listed as preparatory projects for 2021. (For the latter, the authorities appear to have settled on the title Yellow River Protection Law [黄河保护法].)

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