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Call to reduce NPC deputies
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Cai Dingjian 

Law professor Cai Dingjian suggests that the NPC session be extended and the number of deputies reduced to guarantee a productive meeting.

In an interview with the Xinmin Weekly, Professor Cai Dingjian, director of the Constitutional Government Research Institute of the China University of Politics and Law says the best way to hold a productive and successful NPC session is to reduce the number of NPC deputies.

Cai says that it is of vital importance to hold productive NPC sessions because these are the channel through which NPC deputies have to perform their duties. From its early beginnings, the NPC has become an important event in the political life of China. But how to evaluate the NPC sessions? If too much attention is focused only on the ceremonious façade instead of the body's constitutional rights and duties, then deputies will fail to meet their responsibilities in representing people's will and rights and interests, and the sessions will not be seen as successful.

The NPC session is one of the shortest compared with congressional sessions in other countries around the world, according to Cai. It is proving increasingly difficult to discuss the important issues of the nation with the world's largest population, and make decisions on those issues, in such a short time. The NPC session lasts about two weeks. A dozen agendas need to be discussed and decided at the session, so discussion and voting on each agenda has less than one day. It is the same with some important legal bills.

Deputies come from the front line in all walks of life. They have to vote for or against law proposals before they truly understand the nature and the consequences. "I think one measure to give deputies enough time to discuss and decide issues individually and scientifically at the NPC sessions is to prolong the sessions," Cai notes. "But the fact that our deputies are only part-time means that our NPC sessions cannot take too much time."

Is it better to professionalize NPC deputies?

Cai believes that turning NPC deputies into professionals will not solve the problem. The issue is that the large number of deputies increases the difficulties in organizing the NPC sessions.

The large number of deputies makes it difficult to investigate proposals in detail at the plenary meetings. If each deputy made a 10-minute speech at the plenary meeting, it would take 2 months to make those speeches. If each made a one-minute speech, it would also take nearly 50 hours. Therefore proposals have to be deliberated at group meetings. Such meetings provide enough time for deputies to make speeches, but many other problems arise.

Firstly, lack of communication: Deputies are divided into groups according to their region of origin. So deputies have little chance to exchange ideas directly on the proposals they are discussing. This means they cannot discuss the proposals fully, especially those on which there is wide disagreement.

Secondly, the flood of briefings on meetings: Due to the lack of direct communications, deputies have to exchange ideas through briefings on meetings. Here another two problems arise: on the one hand individual deputies complain that the meeting briefings do not reflect their opinions, on the other hand, they are simply too numerous. If each deputy makes one speech on one topic, there will be nearly 3000 briefings. NPC deputies have to attend meetings all day long and have no time to read briefings. So there are inadequate exchanges of opinion between different delegations.

Due to the large number of deputies, the organization of the NPC sessions becomes very complicated. More than 2000 staff work directly for the NPC session, and another 10,000 people are indirectly involved. The budget for the NPC session has increased year on year. The NPC session has become a strain on Beijing's traffic, security, service industries, and hotels and tourism.

If the NPC session is regarded as a symbol for unity and the role of the deputy is seen as a position endowed with pride and honor, the number of deputies is surely likely to increase as time goes by. This will prevent them from better representing the will and interests of the people, and in turn this will hinder people from enjoying their rights as masters of their own affairs.

How to improve the efficiency of NPC sessions?

Firstly, Cai thinks, the number of NPC deputies has to be reduced. If there are so many deputies that it becomes impossible to conduct proper discussions and make sensible decisions, democracy will not work.

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