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LE MONDE (France), XINHUA (China)

Worldcrunch

BEIJING - According to Le Monde, the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 3, was more like a star-studded film premiere than a political event.

The CPPCC is a 2,200-member body that meets annually to debate policy and advise government. It includes politicians, but also businessmen and celebrities.

But walking up the stairs to the parliament in Tiananmen Square, only the celebrities were to be seen. There was former NBA player Yao Ming, martial-arts star Jackie Chan, Nobel prize winning writer Mo Yan, Baidu CEO Robin Li, director Chen Kaige and many more.

The 2013 CPPCC session opening speech (XinHua)

The cooperation of non-politician personalities is the reason why the CPPCC has always been a favorite of the Chinese public.

Since the beginning of China’s Opening Up and Reform, more and more delegates have been chosen from business, cultural and sports world. Today, 61% of the 2,200 delegates are non-politicians.

Even though the delegates make individual proposals –28930 in the last five years, according to Xinhua – that are transmitted to the respective ministries or administrations, they cannot debate publicly or organize in order to achieve a collective consensus. Their proposal power is thus neutralized.

The presence or absence of certain celebrities has been quite controversial.Liu Xiang, a former 110-meters hurdles Olympic champion, is being criticized for only participating in two sessions out of five since 2008. This year he is in the U.S. for medical treatment.

In an interview broadcast on CCTV state-television, Yao Ming said the presence of celebrities revives the public interest for politics and allows “the political system to become more mature.”

Professor Hu Xingdou, a sharp commentator of Chinese political life disagrees with the basketball player’s opinion: “Taking an interest in politics doesn’t mean participating in them. The government does not want the people to participate. In practice, they do everything in order to encourage people to do business and keep them away from politics.”

Yao Ming (Wikimedia)

The opening of the CPPCC marks the beginning of the annual parliamentary session that lasts two weeks. The National People’s Congress (NPC) starts on March 5.

The 2013 session of the “Lianghui” (“two assemblies” in Chinese) is very important – it is Xi JinPing’s first, the new secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The NPC will designate him officially as President and will reveal the composition of the new government.

According to Xinhua, the CPPCC session focused mainly on the unity and democracy within the patriotic socialist government in place.

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For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

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