Power to the Center

The annual meeting of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), has always been more political pep rally than lawmaking event. Dozens of flags are hoisted atop Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, flowerpots cover huge swaths of Tiananmen Square, and banners carrying the ideological slogans of the moment are everywhere to be seen. Amid the trappings of a grand political convention, the 3,000 delegates—most of them selected by the Communist Party, which also preapproves the laws they'll vote on—sit through 10 days of work reports presented in a series of speeches by leadership. At the end of the session, freshly...

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