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Brand new adjustment at China's top political advisory body
The "Environmental & Resources Group" is the newest advisory group since 1993
The 2023 "Two Sessions," which is the annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee and the National People's Congress (NPC), will kick off on March 4 and 5, respectively. This year's sessions are particularly noteworthy as they follow the 20th Party National Congress held last October and mark a major moment in China's leadership reshuffle.
The CPPCC National Committee, as China's top advisory body, provides a platform for political consultation and multiparty cooperation. It gives individuals outside the Communist Party of China (CPC) a chance to oversee government operations and suggest proposals related to state affairs. Representing diverse backgrounds and professions, including minorities and religious groups, the members and delegates of the national "Two Sessions" are selected from all walks of life and are considered some of the most important players in China's political scene.
This year's event marks the first "Two Sessions" since China emerged from the pandemic's shadow. The start time of the event was announced at the end of last year, and while the schedule hasn't been confirmed yet, it is expected to last at least 10 days without any interruptions.
Today's piece is an article about a new addition to the CPPCC. It was published on Feb. 7 by China Newsweek, a subsidiary of the China News Service. A new environmental and resources group has been added to the advisory body, comprised of personnel and professionals with environmental protection and resource conservation backgrounds. This new group is a reflection of China's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and preserving biodiversity, and experts believe it will help members to concentrate on environmental and resource issues and to make related proposals.
Bofei Zheng, a friend of your Ginger River who has written for Zichen Wang’s newsletter Pekingnology, contributed to today's piece. He also contributed to a new Ginger River Review (GRR) series called the GRR Explainer. Ginger River hopes that the new series will assist you in better understanding the Chinese terms associated with the Two Sessions and other significant topics in China.
Here are a couple of such examples:
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On Jan. 18th, the list of members for the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was released and it included a new “环境资源界” "Environmental & Resources Group." This marks the first time since 1993, when the 8th CPPCC National Committee added the "Economic Group," that new groups have been added to the CPPCC National Committee.
According to the name list, the 14th CPPCC National Committee is comprised of 2,172 members and has set up 34 groups, known as 界别 jiebie in Chinese. The new environmental resources group is one of the largest groups with 85 members.
In line with the changes at the national level, local CPPCC committees have also adjusted their group settings. All 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in China have included either "environmental & resources" or "resources & environment" groups in their CPPCC member lists.
Experts have stated that the creation of the environmental & resources group reflects China's latest efforts in environmental protection and resource utilization and is a necessary step towards achieving the "Double Carbon" policy goal of reaching peak carbon use by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2060, as well as guaranteeing arable land and energy security.
Who are the members of the group?
The preparation for the creation of the Environmental & Resources Group started in 2020.
童金南 Tong Jinnan, a member of the 14th National Committee of CPPCC and a professor at the Department of Geobiology at the School of Earth Sciences of the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, told China Newsweekly that the former Population, Resource & Environment Committee had added 40 members, and he was one of them. The purpose of the new addition was to prepare for the new group. The 2020 Work Overview of the Population, Resource & Environment Committee included the sentence: "actively move forward the establishment of the Environmental & Resources Group."
Many of the 85 members of the group had previously been part of other groups such as science and technology, agriculture, and the Jiusan Society. They all have a common feature of having submitted proposals related to the environment and resources. For example, Tong Jinnan, as a member of the Science & Technology Group of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, submitted his first proposal related to the environmental protection of the Han River, and subsequently submitted several proposals related to ecological and environmental management.
According to China News Weekly, the 85 members of the Environmental & Resources Group have backgrounds in ecology and environment, natural resources, water conservancy and affairs, urban planning, marine, forestry, geology, chemistry, paleontology, architecture, meteorology, transportation, law, among others.
Over 40 percent of the members are officials from these fields, including 黄润秋 Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment; 赵英民 Zhao Yingmin, Vice Minister of Ecology and Environment; 章建华 Zhang Jianhua, Director of the National Energy Administration; 马建华 Ma Jianhua, Director of the Changjiang Water Resources Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources; 何广顺 He Guangshun, Director of of the marine strategic planning and economics department in the Ministry of Natural Resources; 叶敏 Ye Min, Director of the Fujian Provincial Department of Natural Resources; and 余国东 Yu Guodong, Director of the Chongqing Municipal Bureau of Ecology and Environment.
About 30 percent of the 85 members are experts and scholars from these fields, including 方精云 Fang Jingyun, President of Yunnan University; 吴健 Wu Jian, Vice President of Zhejiang University; 张甘霖 Zhang Ganlin, Director of Nanjing Institute of Geography and Lakes, Chinese Academy of Sciences; 葛全胜 Ge Quansheng, Director of Institute of Geographical Sciences and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, many of them are also scholars of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering.
In addition, about 20 percent of the members are from energy and chemical companies, including 卢铁忠 Lu Tiezhong, chairman of China Nuclear Power; 李凡荣 Li Fanrong, chairman of China Sinochem; 汪东进 Wang Dongjin, chairman of China National Offshore Oil; 钱智民 Qian Zhimin, chairman of State Power Investment; 戴厚良 Dai Houliang, chairman of PetroChina; 温枢刚 Wen Shugang, chairman of Huaneng Group; 辛保安 Xin Baoan, chairman of State Grid, and 敖宏 Ao Hong, chairman of China Rare Earth Group.
刘旭涛 Liu Xutao, a professor at the Central Party School (National School of Administration), noted in an interview with China Newsweek that the vast majority of the members have extensive experience in related fields, both in academic research and in practice, which will allow them to perform their duties of political participation and deliberation effectively.
张维宸 Zhang Weichen, a researcher at the China Institute of Natural Resources Economics, told China Newsweek that many members of the group work on the front line, and they can make more reasonable suggestions, "and may even achieve an effect that some problems can be solved and work can be implemented faster in the process of discussion at meetings."
Tong, as a geologist, has been paying attention to environmental issues since becoming a member of the National Committee of CPPCC, and in the past, he often discussed environmental issues from the perspective of geology in the panel discussion of the National Committee of CPPCC. In the future, he plans to focus on balancing environmental management with economic and social development.
"For example, I once talked about a problem in a panel discussion. The current river and lake management has turned many rivers and lakes into rocky beaches and concrete roads, which may improve the environment but also destroys the living space of creatures on the mud beach. This is not ecological protection, but destruction. This is one of the issues I will focus on in the future."
[Note: Tong Jinnan, as reported by China Social Science Network, made a proposal in 2021 to add more information about the history of the Earth and the evolution of life to primary and secondary school curricula. This proposal caught the attention of the Ministry of Education and other relevant departments. The ministry followed up by submitting a new curriculum standard for secondary school biology and geography, and later sent him the new version of the textbooks for his review and comments, along with a letter of response. During the 2022 Two Sessions, Tong Jinnan further proposed changing the name of the secondary school geography class to from 地理课 "Geography" to 地球课 "Earth".]
The establishment is a timely move in response to social development
From the perspective of several experts, the new group of the CPPCC National Committee is a timely move in response to social development.
汪玉凯 Wang Yukai, a professor at the Central Party School (National School of Administration), told China Newsweek that the establishment of the Environmental & Resource Group indicates that environmental and resource issues have become a focal point of the country's development. " This has a lot to do with the transformation of China's economic development mode. For quite a long time, China focused on scale and quantity-based economic growth. To achieve a shift to development with quality and efficiency, environmental resource protection has become extremely important." Wang believes that as reform and opening up proceed, the importance placed on environmental and resource issues is expected to increase.
Wang said the establishment of the new group shows that China has placed more focus on environmental and resource issues. At the beginning of the reform and opening up, people were not aware of the severity of damaging the environment and over-consumption of resources, but now both the highest decision-making level in China and the public have increasingly recognized the significance of environmental protection and resource conservation.
To comply with this trend, it takes institutional reform and requires joint efforts from various aspects. For example, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources have been established to integrate the functions of environmental protection and resource conservation, which used to be scattered in various departments, and to strengthen the leadership of environmental and resource conservation in the organizational structure of government departments.
Since the 18th Party Congress, the government's functions have changed from "macro-control, market supervision, public service and social management" to "environmental protection", and the construction of ecological civilization has been incorporated into the Five-sphere Integrated Plan, which vows to promote coordinated progress in the economic, political, cultural, social and eco-environmental fields. The new Environmental & Resources Group of the CPPCC is precisely following this change.
From Zhang's perspective, the establishment of the new group is also driven by the country's need to address various environmental challenges. "Not only the need to handle international and domestic tasks, but also challenges posed by reaching the carbon peak in 2030 and carbon neutral in 2060, safeguarding the redline of around 120 million hectares of arable land, and ensuring energy security. To complete these tasks, the CPPCC needs to play a key role in addressing these challenges."
The Population, Resources and Environment Committee of the CPPCC National Committee was established in March 1998 and is one of the nine special committees under the leadership of the CPPCC Standing Committee and the Chairperson's Council. Over the years, the committee has realized that members with a special focus on the environment and resources were scattered among different groups, and their proposals were not solely focused on environmental protection and resource conservation. The establishment of the special environmental and resource group will allow these members to concentrate their efforts on these important issues.
History of CPPCC group
The CPPCC group has undergone several changes throughout its history, including the addition or renaming of groups. The local CPPCC groups are modeled after the CPPCC National Committee.
The term "group" first appeared during the 17th Standing Committee of the 6th CPPCC National Committee in March 1988, which replaced the previous "units" or Danwei. In March 2004, the amendment to the CPPCC constitution formalized the use of the term "groups" and replaced "units" at the second session of the 10th CPPCC National Committee.
The Fifth CPPCC National Committee abolished the group for cooperatives, a way to organize farming business during the era of the planned economy, and added the Sports Group. The Sixth National Committee of the CPPCC added groups of "All-China Taiwan Compatriots' Association" and "Compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao". The Seventh CPPCC National Committee had 31 groups, and increased to 32 after adding the "China Association for Science and Technology" in the middle of the national meeting. The Eighth CPPCC National Committee divided the "Compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao" group into "Compatriots from Hong Kong" and "Compatriots from Macao", and added the "Economic" group. The Ninth CPPCC National Committee made adjustments to the names of five groups at the CPPCC National Committee. For example, "Friendship with Foreign Countries Groups" was changed to "Friendship with Foreign Countries Group", "Social Relief and Welfare Groups" was rebranded as "Social Welfare Group", "Ethnic Minority" to "Ethnic Minority Group", "Hong Kong compatriots" to "Specially-invited members from Hong Kong" and "Macao compatriots" was changed to "Specially-invited members from Macao". The 10th National Committee of CPPCC renamed two groups. "Agriculture and Forestry Group" was changed to "Agriculture Group", and "Social Welfare Group" to "Social Welfare and Social Security Group".
Liu introduced that when the New China was just founded, the CPPCC was mainly composed of parties, groups, regions, ethnic minorities, and religious groups, but with the development of society and economy, these groups were unable to meet the development requirement, and adjustments were necessary to make.
Previous documents of the CPC Central Committee also revealed the importance attached to the adjustment and optimization of CPPCC groups. In 2006, the CPC Central Committee released the《关于加强人民政协工作的意见》Opinions on Strengthening the Work of the People's Political Consultative Conference, which highlighted the groups as a unique feature of the CPPCC development. In 2015, the CPC Central Committee called for "timely adjustment to the setup of the CPPCC group" in its Opinions on Strengthening the Construction of Socialist Consultative Democracy. Furthermore, in 2019, the《关于新时代加强和改进人民政协工作的意见》 Opinions of the CPC Central Committee on Strengthening and Improving the Work of the CPPCC in the New Era demanded the "optimization of the group setups, increase of CPPCC's representativeness to meet the aspirations and demands of various groups.
In addition to the environmental & resources group, the 14th CPPCC National Committee will also make adjustments, including the merger of the "Chinese Communist Youth League" and the "All-China Youth Federation" into the "Chinese Communist Youth League and The All-China Youth Federation group".
According to Liu, the adjustment of the CPPCC group is based on the country's political, economic and social development requirements. Some of them were adjusted based on industry, some were based on professions. These adjustments allow the CPPCC to keep pace with the times, and give full play to its functions of political consultation, democratic supervision, and participation in politics and government.
However, he also pointed out that it is normal to see CPPCC members "cross borders," or have their professions intersect with other fields. Therefore, members should be advocated to participate in secondary fields, such as participating in research, proposals and suggestions related to the technology group as a member of the Science & Technology group.
"In fact, the group is more of a platform for political consultation and participation, and thus it boasts the characteristic of openness".
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