The annual session of China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), is known chiefly for its abundant pageantry and scant substance. About 3,000 delegates, most of them government officials, spend the 12-day session praising the Communist Party's leadership and its policies. When it is time to vote on legislation and other procedural matters, the outcome is seldom in doubt.
Despite their general lack of content, not all the annual sessions of the NPC are equally boring. As the composition and leadership of the NPC changes every five years, the first session of a new NPC usually is more interesting than subsequent ones. This year's NPC session, scheduled to begin on March 5, falls into the "more interesting" category since it marks the start of a new five-year NPC.