China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, opened its one and only 2015 session in Beijing on March 5. The Congress – the NPC – meets for just 10 days a year and, in that short window of time, is supposed to set China’s policy direction for the next 12 months.
In theory, the NPC has much greater power than the U.S. Congress, including the powers to elect China’s president and even to change China’s constitution. In practice, the NPC is widely considered subservient to China’s Communist Party chiefs.
The 2,964 members of the National People’s Congress receive no salary for their service. Most of them don’t need the money. At least 106 NPC members rate as U.S. dollar billionaires – and that total reflects only the members whose fortunes are known. Of the 100 richest people in China, 15 serve in the NPC.
Some observers have characterized the National People’s Congress as “China’s Davos.” At the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland’s Davos, the western world’s filthy rich hobnob with the western world’s top elected political leaders. The NPC gives rich business people a similar opportunity to network with top politicians.
In China, political leaders and the filthy rich often turn out to be the same people. One major new study of social class in China, by sociologist David SG Goodman, traces the origins of many Chinese elite fortunes back to the Party-state. The rich with these Party-state roots, he notes, include “not only those still working in the state sector but also the majority of those identified as private entrepreneurs.”