China's Two Sessions, known as liang-hui in mandarin, are annual conferences of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The Two Sessions are arguably the most important political event of the year for the Chinese people, as this is the occasion where leaders and representatives from all walks of life discuss the government's priorities for the next year. In this article, I look at how Two Sessions have been reported in the media.
When I type the search keywords "china two sessions" in Google web search, here are the sources of search results that turn up on page 1:
- South China Morning Post (SCMP) - a Hong Kong based publication that was bought by Alibaba;
- ThatsMags - commentary on China;
- Nikkei Asia;
- ING - a Dutch financial services group;
- Shine.cn - powered by Shanghai Daily.
When I type the same search keywords in Google news search, page 1 is dominated 100% by reporting from SCMP. Although the search results could be biased by my geo location (I am in Asia at the moment), another reason one should not overlook is that it is not that easy (or not even possible) for foreign media to get access to Two Sessions, let alone interviews with political figures or participants of the conferences.
I then Googled reporting on the Two Sessions from different mainstream media around the world. Below are a summary:
Headlines from CNN on Two Sessions:
- China sets growth target of more than 6% in 2021 (Laura He, HK based)
- Beijing needs to create jobs fast. Here's what it could do (Laura He, HK based)
- China's plans to 'improve' democracy in Hong Kong could spell the end of the city's opposition (James Griffiths, HK based)
- With no successor in sight, Xi Jinping heads to major Party meeting with more power than ever (Ben Westcott, HK based)
Other than more factual reporting on key messages (e.g., #1, #2), it is not too surprising to see the two commentaries (e.g., #3, #4) focus on "democracy". It fits the common US media narrative to paint the Dragon as an authoritarian place, especially given the tension in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Another interesting point is those two pointed commentaries are written by reporters that seem to come from a western background (I'm judging the book by the cover, as in judging by the name and photo of the reporters).
When I search "China Two Sessions" on the BBC site, the most recent reporting is from 2018. Seems like BBC probably decided if they cannot be close on site, it's not worth reporting about it.
Financial Times (UK)
Headlines by FT, unsurprisingly focusing on the economy:
- China targets 2021 GDP growth at over 6 per cent
- China targets 6% growth after reining in coronavirus
- China’s leaders focus on post-Covid economy at annual meeting
- China set to cut proportion of directly elected lawmakers in Hong Kong
Note that compared with CNN commentary headlines, the FT commentary on democracy-related topic (#4) is much milder.
The Straits Times (Singapore)
Headlines from Singapore's largest publication:
- China lawmakers wrap up Parliament session focused on managing risks
- China determined to reform, press ahead
- Two Sessions or 'lianghui': China's biggest political gathering, in a nutshell
- Two sessions will set course that will also help the world: China Daily editorial
Overall the headline titles are neutral-toned or positive (e.g., #4 citing China Daily). One does not see the likes of democracy-related headlines in CNN. This is not surprising given Singapore is viewed by some as a mixture of authoritarianism and democracy - hence The Straits Times may want to avoid addressing this hot potato.