Caonima! The Double Meeting is here again!

Written by Julen Madariaga on March 4th, 2010

Oriental Morning post

The Oriental Morning Post of Shanghai is doing a nice coverage of the annual NPC-CPPCC meetings. I liked today’s paper edition, which carries a couple of cute alpacas right next to a picture of Hu and the boys walking down the aisle from the CPPCC they’ve just inaugurated.

It is a long story for those that haven’t been watching, but these lovely animals on the top left have come to mean a rude invective in Chinese, and one wonders if there is not a young malicious editor in the paper doing the front page layout. Because I mean, the news that “Alpacas cost  5,000 EUR in the animal fair” is hardly top front page material today, is it?

Anyway, this time of the year has come again and here is the Double Rubber Stamps Fair, or 两会, invading all the Chinese media. Yesterday I even watched the inauguration on CCTV, heroically exercising my listening skills with what is arguably the most boring political event of the year. In case you missed it, imagine a massive Madame Tussauds with thousands of figures where every one of them looks exactly the same as the next and sits in the same position. Add to this a brief performance of the national hymn and there you go,  开幕了!

Even if it is widely recognized that the 两会 has little political power, and that important decisions are taken beforehand by other organs, the show is still important for China watchers, as many policies are announced at this time. In theory this is an act in which the People (through the regional representatives that attend the meetings) propose new ideas to the Government. In this spirit, other channels have been opened recently, like the internet chats of Wen Jiabao.

This year we even have what looks like an independent initiative by private newspapers and websites to change the hukou system. Although I am skeptical that the proposal will fly (some of the articles have already been censored) it is good to see that private initiative is alive and that there is still some bit left of independent journalism in China bold enough to unite and propose policy changes.

The Oriental Post also carries a little interview with one of the most thundering delegates of the 两会, Ms. Zhang Xiaomei. This delegate was very popular on the internet last year as an ultraprolific drafter of astounding proposals. Some netizens worry that this year, as all the delegates have been equipped with free laptops (with taxpayer money!) Zhang’s performance will be enhanced, and the number of thunders may even exceed that of the previous years.

Here are some of the famous proposals of Ms. Zhang, many of them look like what left wing, feminist groups would propose in Europe. It is understandable that many netizens are skeptical: it is all a show giving a fake impression of political freedom that is in fact inexistent. But my personal opinion is that, whatever the real intentions of Ms. Zhang and the thunder delegates, it is always positive that there are people with the initiative to propose different views. Absurd or not, this activity is certainly a more positive image than the submissive wax figures of the inaugural sessions.

As Xu Zhiyong stated yesterday, the Chinese people have a mission to accomplish. When the time comes, the existence of an active civil society will be precious for China, and initiatives like mentioned above are a good sign that the spirit is alive under the surface.

And that is all for the inauguration of the 两会 this year. More coverage if necessary after the final conclusive session.

CLARIFICATION: The inauguration I watched yesterday was only that of the CPPCC, the NPC has a separate inauguration on Friday which will be even more grandiose, as it is the largest one with all the regional delegations.  Don’t not miss that one!

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