Olivia Pratt
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4 things China’s government is about to do


China's President Xi Jinping (center) and Premier Li Keqiang (right) attend a legislative meeting at Beijing’s.Great Hall of the People.

Once every year around this time, China’s legislature — the National People’s Congress — convenes in Beijing and passes a slate of measures drawn up by the ruling Communist Party. It’s the highlight of the year for China watchers, when much of the major plans for the next 12 months are announced over a few days of activity. With the NPC kicking off Thursday, the body’s spokeswoman Fu Ying gave news reporters a briefing on some of the things to expect.

Fu said the proposed increase for China’s 2015 defense budget will be “around 10%.” Some Western analysts have challenged China’s stated military spending, suggesting the actual figure may be higher. While Fu didn’t go into details about the sensitive budget item, she did offer a rationale: “Our lesson is that lagging behind leaves one vulnerable to attack,” she said, alluding to the various foreign military invasions which China suffered throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The environmental issue has become our biggest concern,” Fu said. She cited China’s launch of a new environmental protection law this year, which she said has been dubbed “the strictest [of its kind] in history,” equipped with “teeth” and “having zero tolerance toward pollution.” The NPC has been revising Chinese laws on air pollution and has decided to also review the laws on water pollution this year. It’s also considering drafting a new law on soil pollution in the future, she said. The remarks followed days after an online documentary on China’s massive pollution problem drew an estimated 100 million views.

China also is drawing up its first-ever domestic violence law, with the draft already published for public comment, Fu said. While the full NPC won’t be passing it during the current session, she said she hopes the draft law can be submitted in August to the NPC’s Standing Committee meeting for discussion.

Fu also took questions from reporters, including one that addressed controversial gasoline-tax hikes made by the Ministry of Finance, including one such increase in January. The journalist asked if the ministry could make such an “arbitrary” move, to which Fu responded that the government hopes to “implement at every level” the principle that taxation is sole prerogative of the legislature. However, she said, the likely deadline for this implementation was 2020.