NPCSC Session Watch: Counterespionage, Accessible Environments & Tibetan Plateau Conservation

A man in suit holding a yellow folder marked with "top secret" in red.

The 14th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will convene for its second session from April 24 to 26, the Council of Chairpersons decided on Friday. Before providing our customary rundown of the session’s legislative agenda, we’d like to first discuss our approach to covering the NPCSC’s sessions during its new five-year term—what will change and what won’t.

Starting with some background. Long-time readers would know that, for an NPCSC session with legislative business, we typically publish at least twice: (1) a pre-session preview (like this post) that introduces the bills on the agenda, focusing on the ones up for their initial review; and (2) a post-session recap of the session’s legislative output, in which we try our best to discuss each bill passed—even if in just a few sentences. The more important bills may be covered in individual posts—or “deep dives,” as they say (here are some recent examples). As for other developments relating to an NPCSC session, such as public consultations on the bills reviewed, we have been covering them separately as well.

That, for the most part, will remain our approach to covering the 14th NPCSC. We will preview each legislative session and write about related developments (public consultations, annual legislative plans, etc.) the same way we have for the past five years. And we will continue creating dedicated pages for all “major bills,” which include all bills reviewed at least twice and any other bill that we deem sufficiently important (for instance, the 2021 NPCSC decision authorizing property tax pilots).

What will change, however, is the way we cover the legislative output of NPCSC sessions. In short, we won’t recap every single bill passed going forward. Multiple factors have prompted us to make this change, and chief among them are our limited expertise and low readership interest in a lot of the bills. Our prior efforts to offer comprehensive recaps required us to devote substantial time to researching areas of law and policy we knew little about (and which, as it turned out, not many of our readers were interested in), or to write perfunctory one- or two-sentence summaries that had little informational value and didn’t do the bills justice. So this term, we will focus on bills (or provisions thereof) that we think are “important” or “interesting” and can write about in a reasonably informed way, while trying to avoid duplicative coverage. We endeavor to publish more “deep dives,” but won’t rule out providing fairly in-depth coverage of two or more bills in a single post. What to do specifically for each session and each bill will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

To fill in the resulting gap in our coverage as much as possible, we will additionally implement the following changes:

  • Aside from continually updating the NPC Calendar widget in the sidebar, we will also update each NPC Calendar post at the end of the corresponding month to reflect the NPC-related events that have occurred, including a list of any and all bills passed.
  • We will feature quality analyses or commentaries from other outlets on the relevant bill pages (like this), to extent we are aware of their existence. So if there is a particular article you think we should feature, please let us know—or better yet, write for us instead!
  • We may also discuss the bills that are expected to pass in more detail when previewing an upcoming session.

(Full disclosure: We have already started making some of the changes discussed so far since late 2022. This post is just to make them official.)

Finally, we will give the NPCSC’s oversight work some more attention this term. We will start by publishing an explainer on the various types of oversight reports heard by the NPCSC sometime in the coming months. It will be followed by a new page that compiles the oversight reports heard by the 14th NPCSC. Those reports, as we have recently explained in an interview with The Diplomat, are an “overlooked authoritative source of information,” for they “often describe existing official policies and practices concerning particular issues, their shortcomings, and the authorities plan to address them.” While we generally don’t expect to write about the reports ourselves, we hope the new page will make them easily accessible to those who wish to reference them.

If you’ve read all that, we appreciate your attention and your patience. If you have any comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out (by leaving a comment below or contacting us privately).

Now, back to the upcoming NPCSC session.

As is expected for a new NPCSC’s first legislative session (the 14th NPCSC did not conduct any legislative business at its inaugural session last month), the upcoming session has a light (tentative) agenda with only three bills.

The draft revision to the Counterespionage Law [反间谍法] and the draft Qinghai–Tibet Plateau Ecological Conservation Law [青藏高原生态保护法] will return for their third—and most likely final—review. China Law Translate has posted a chart comparing the draft Counterespionage Law revision with its current text, along with background information on the bill. In addition, the draft Barrier-Free Environments Development Law [无障碍环境建设法] will return for its second review, and we think a third and final reading awaits it later this year.

(Note that the official readout of a Council of Chairpersons meeting does not necessarily disclose all the bills that will be reviewed by the ensuing NPCSC session, which is why the agenda disclosed thus far is only “tentative.”)

On Friday, the Council also approved the NPCSC’s “work priorities” [工作要点] as well as plans on legislative, oversight, and delegates work for 2023. We expect the NPCSC to release those documents after this month’s session. (Past work plans are archived here and the NPCSC’s “delegates work” explained here.)

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