NPCSC Session Watch: Patriotic Education, Food Security, Accessible Environments & New Delegate Affairs Commission

UPDATE (June 26, 2023): The NPCSC is expected to approve the Barrier-Free Environments Development Law and the Foreign Relations Law on Wednesday, June 28.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay (cropped)

The 14th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will convene for its third session from June 26 to 28, the Council of Chairpersons decided on Friday, June 16. Eight bills, including six draft laws, are on the session’s tentative agenda, which we preview below.

Returning Bills

Four bills are coming back for further review.

The draft Barrier-Free Environments Development Law [无障碍环境建设法] returns for its third—and most likely final—review. During its second review in April, lawmakers focused on the issue of renovating old residential communities for accessibility, including the installation of elevators, and advocated for expanding the Law’s direct beneficiaries to re-include all members of the society with accessible needs—not just people with disabilities and the elderly. We expect the bill to pass with further, mostly minor changes.

The draft Foreign Relations Law [对外关系法] returns for its second review. Based on its first draft, the Law would primarily codify China’s foreign policy principles, while also writing into law the roles of various Party and state institutions in foreign affairs. One Chinese scholar is of the view that the bill in this current form simply contains too many declaratory statements and lacks enforceable provisions. While the bill could pass at the upcoming session, we would not rule out the possibility of a third and final review later this year.

The draft revisions to the Administrative Reconsideration Law [行政复议法] and to the Marine Environmental Protection Law [海洋环境保护法] both return for their second review. We expect them to go through another round of review later this year.

According the NPCSC’s 2023 legislative plan, the draft Foreign State Immunity Law [外国国家豁免法] would undergo further review this month, but the bill does not appear on the session’s tentative agenda.

New Bills

Four new bills have been submitted for review.

The Council of Chairpersons submitted a draft Patriotic Education Law [爱国主义教育法], which is expected to at least in part implement the Outline for Implementing Patriotic Education in the New Era [新时代爱国主义教育实施纲要], jointly released by the Central Committee and the State Council in 2019. “In modern China, the essence of patriotism is to uphold a high degree of unity in love for the country, for the Party, and for socialism,” the Outline states. It lays out the contents of patriotic education, including Xi Jinping Thought, the Party’s and the nation’s history, as well as national security and defense education. The key targets of patriotic education are children and teenagers, according to the Outline, though it is intended for all citizens. The Outline also makes clear that, while patriotic education is mainly carried out through school curricula, mass media, literature and art, and the internet have important roles to play as well. It, moreover, calls for “incorporating the spirit of patriotism into the relevant laws, regulations, policies, and systems . . . to give play to its guiding, constraining, and normative role.” We expect the bill to pass after two or three reviews.

The Council also submitted a draft decision to establish a new NPCSC Delegates Affairs Commission [代表工作委员会] in accordance with this year’s Party-state restructuring plan. We wrote about the NPCSC’s “delegates work” [代表工作] and the new Commission after the plan was first released in March. Under the restructuring plan, the Commission has the following functions:

[It will] take charge of work relating to the allocation of NPC delegate quotas, the review of their qualifications, and liaison services [for the delegates]; guide and coordinate work relating to the delegates’ group inspection tours, special research projects, and communications with the masses; assume overall management of work relating to NPC delegates’ bills and suggestions; supervise and manage NPC delegates’ performance of their duties; coordinate efforts to educate and train NPC delegates; guide the delegates work of the standing committees of provincial-level people’s congresses; and so forth. [It will also] undertake the specific work of the NPCSC Delegate Credentials Committee.

We expect the NPCSC to approve the decision and fill key positions on the Commission at the upcoming session.

The State Council submitted a draft Law on Ensuring Food Security [粮食安全保障法]. The Chinese government views food security as an integral part of national security and has on many occasions stressed the need to have control over China’s food supply—or “to hold the Chinese people’s rice bowl firmly in our own hands at all times,” as Xi Jinping likes to say. Several pieces of legislation enacted in recent years already touch on the subject, including the 2022 Black Soil Protection Law [黑土地保护法] and the 2021 Anti­–Food Waste Law [反食品浪费法]. A law directly addressing food security has been a top priority for the legislature since 2018, replacing an earlier (seemingly broader) project titled Grains Law [粮食法] that had been on its agenda since 2008. (A more literal translation of “粮食安全” is therefore “grains security,” and a 2014 draft Grains Law defined “grains” as cereals, legumes, and tubers.) The new bill is expected to address food security holistically, from grain production and circulation to storage and processing to consumption. We expect the bill to pass after three reviews.

The State Council also submitted a draft decision to designate a “National Ecology Day” [全国生态日], which we expect the NPCSC to approve later this month.

At its meeting last Friday, the Council of Chairpersons also adopted the 14th NPCSC’s five-year (2023–2027) plan for overseeing the management of state-owned assets. We introduced the NPCSC’s oversight of state-owned assets and its previous (also the first) such five-year oversight plan (for 2018–2022) here. We will provide more coverage once the new plan is released.

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