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Performance Driven
Unpacking China's annual Two Sessions in achieving its ultimate goal through sustained performance
By Yazini April  ·2018-03-30

In March 2018, China held the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) and the First session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, annual events collectively known as the Two Sessions, to map out the country's future development.

Both sessions discussed major key themes, such as the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, which was included in the Constitution, poverty alleviation, and a community with shared future for humanity.

The outcomes of the Two Sessions are of significance to China and the global community as they give a snapshot view of China's trajectory in the near future, and how it intends to achieve its end state.

The tenets of acquiring the ultimate goal are stable governance where the state performs legitimately by providing essential services, effectively governing state resources, accountability through political and legal processes, and citizen participation through political parties and other outlets. 

Key issues

There are several key issues that emerged from the NPC session this year. Of significance was the reelection of Xi Jinping as Chinese president.

Also relevant was the Report on the Work of the Government by Premier Li Keqiang delivered at the NPC opening meeting on March 5. Highlights of the report concluded that China's GDP has risen from 54 trillion yuan ($8.6 trillion) to 82.7 trillion yuan ($13.2 trillion) in the past five years, registering average annual growth of 7.1 percent. Furthermore, more than 68 million people have been lifted out of poverty, and more than 66 million new urban jobs have been created. The report also established that China intends to promote a community with shared future for humanity.

Other major outcomes included the adoption of the constitutional amendments, including the change of the president's and vice president's terms of office, which according to Shen Chunyao, Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, is good for China's lasting development and stability.

Africa relevance

What do the Report on the Work of the Government and policies such as a community of a shared future mean for South Africa and the global community?

First, China's newly set growth rate target of 6.5 percent for 2018 has a major impact on South Africa as its largest trading partner on the continent, notwithstanding the fact that China is the world's second largest economy.

The report is also critical as it tackles the issue of poverty reduction, which, even though it is tailored for the Chinese community, remains an international issue. According to an Oxfam study, inequality is not just a growing problem for developing countries, but is also increasing in almost all countries in the G20.

The report further establishes how China's reforms and opening up ensured that more than 68 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the past five years, which, along with other reform measures, was accomplished through performance legitimacy required to achieve the ultimate goal.

According to Christopher Bickerton, a lecturer in politics at the Department of Politics and International Studies of Cambridge University, the performance legitimacy theory is premised on meeting expectations, and satisfying citizens through policy outcomes. In other words, China deploys policy experts and qualified personnel who optimize and implement policies in order to maximize its goals such as economic growth and social development. Consequently, the Chinese Government has maintained the public confidence through effective service delivery and working effectively in the people's interest.

Drawing from some of China's poverty reduction experiences through performance legitimacy should be a subject for consideration in countries like South Africa, which has become one of the most unequal society globally.

Second, there was the NPC discussion on the community with shared future for humanity espoused from the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, which is globally significant as it speaks to multilateralism.

The multilateral concepts argue that all countries are not only interdependent, but also share a common future. Moreover, multilateralism must be enforced through consultation, and global partnership at both international and regional levels which would facilitate commonly shared objectives.

The concept of a community with a shared future is buttressed by African Union Agenda 2063 which states that a prosperous Africa is based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. Agenda 2063's goal is aligned with some of the objectives indicated in the UN's Agenda 2030, to eradicate poverty through the social and economic transformation of the continent through performance legitimacy.

Further unpacking the NPC discourse on the community of a shared future could help emerging countries such as South Africa determine multilateral best practices in the complex world we live in. The fact is that the 21st-century governance is now judged on its ability to effectively perform and deliver economically from a domestic and global front.

Achieving the ultimate goal is the ultimate objective of all stable governments with socio-economic and development plans through performance legitimacy. Stable governance is the key mechanism through which the basic human needs of the population are largely met through essential services such as crime reduction, the rule of law and economic governance. More importantly, acquiring the ultimate goal means that a government has the capacity for provision of essential services without significant assistance from the international community.

The Two Sessions outcomes demonstrate China's capacity to meet its ultimate goal. China's brand of political governance, socialism with Chinese characteristics, has proven itself effective through legitimate performance.

Under the new leadership, there is hope that South Africa, through the National Development Plan, is on the road to achieving its ultimate goal. Performance legitimacy where South African citizens become confident in their government's productivity is a lesson we should consider drawing upon as a nation.

(The author is a research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa)

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