China’s Virus Flare Up Threatens to Delay Legislative Meetings

A fresh wave of coronavirus outbreaks are raising new doubts about China’s ability to kick off its annual provincial legislative meetings in the coming days, with two provinces already postponing planned sessions.

Northeast Hebei and Liaoning provinces, where cases have emerged in recent days, have postponed meetings of local legislators which were to review laws and set agendas for the upcoming year. The delay may impact the timing of China’s “Two Sessions” -- the annual political summit in Beijing of the country’s top legislators and their advisers -- which takes place following the provincial sessions and is currently scheduled for March.

The gathering of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference usually runs for about two weeks and is attended by President Xi Jinping and the country’s top leaders. The high profile meeting was delayed in 2020 for the first time in decades amid the coronavirus pandemic, and China’s ability to stage it this year while many countries around the world are still paralyzed by Covid-19 was presented as a triumph.

The meeting’s proposed agenda for 2021 includes an examination of the national economy and formally approving new China’s five-year plan, a blueprint for economic development. The annual session is widely watched by investors because it usually sets an economic growth target for the upcoming year and approves government budgets.

Hebei’s capital, a city of 11 million people near Beijing, has been locked down and its residents tested en-masse for the coronavirus amid the worst outbreak in about two months in the country. China has largely managed to contain outbreaks within its own borders since quelling the initial outbreak with mass testing, stringent quarantine and border curbs and mobile-phone tracking of contacts.

It remains unclear how the new virus surge took hold in this part of northern China, after Chinese authorities had all but contained the virus following its 2019 emergence in the central city of Wuhan.

China’s confirmed case tally stands at more than 97,000 since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins data. China reported 107 local symptomatic Covid-19 infections Tuesday, including 90 in Hebei and 16 in northeast Heilongjiang province. There were no cases reported for Liaoning the same day.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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