five Ws

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am

Unless you are very good at acronyms, the NPC and the CPPCC may leave you confused. But these 'twin' meetings, now in their 11th year, are the most important political events on the mainland. They shed a rare light into the inner workings of the central government. Here's what you need to know about them.

What?

NPC stands for the National People's Congress. The NPC is the highest legislative body of the mainland. CPPCC stands for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. You can think of it as a high-level political adviser to the NPC.

The main difference between these two bodies is that the NPC is the country's top legislature. Any motion approved by the NPC becomes legally binding. On the other hand, the CPPCC can only debate proposals, not enact laws.

Who?

Who attends these glamorous political events?

The NPC: About 3,000 elected deputies representing mainland provinces, autonomous regions (including Hong Kong and Macau), municipalities and the People's Liberation Army.

The CPPCC: This group is made up of representatives of various political parties, and the number varies every year. The Communist Party of China has the largest representation every year.

When?

This year the meetings began on March 5 and end tomorow. This year's sessions were cut back from the usual two weeks to save costs.

Where?

Both are held in Beijing. The NPC convenes at the Great Hall of China, while the CPPCC meets at the Great Hall of the People.

Why?

The meetings are an opportunity for the central government to tell the people of China - and the world - its priorities and plans for the future. They also serve as a rare chance for the press to pose questions directly to government officials. This year, President Hu Jintao has even been taking part in online chats with the public.

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