“Two Sessions” Two-Step: Politics Leads, Economics Might Not Follow

Two Sessions' Two-Step
Politics Leads, Economics Might Not Follow

Podcast with William C. McCahill Jr., Nadège Rolland, and Michael Wills
March 28, 2024

In this episode of Asia Insight, NBR’s executive vice president Michael Wills hosts a discussion with distinguished fellow for China studies Nadège Rolland and advisor William McCahill Jr. in the aftermath of China’s 2024 parallel annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

William McCahill has been a long-time member of NBR’s Board of Advisors. Before joining NBR, he worked in Hong Kong and China in international finance, and before that had a 25-year Foreign Service career, including diplomatic postings in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Beijing, and culminating as chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 1996 to 2000.

Nadège Rolland is Distinguished Fellow for China Studies at NBR. Her research focuses on China’s domestic, foreign, and defense policy and grand strategy. Her NBR publications include China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative, “China’s Vision for a New World Order,” and “A New Great Game? Situating Africa in China’s Strategic Thinking.


[0:00] Background and introductions by moderator Michael Wills.

[3:02] Xi Jinping has in the past used the “Two Sessions” to announce major policy declarations. What were some of the most important policies announced at this year’s meetings, and were there any surprises?

[9:25] Xi and others in recent years have described a challenging international security environment facing China. What do this year’s meetings tell us about China’s vision for itself as a global power or its foreign policy objectives?

[13:50] One of the things Li Qiang did announce is a 7.2 percent increase in defense spending. How should China’s neighbors view this continued increase in defense spending given the sorts of other tensions that exist on the economic and trade fronts?

[23:24] Li Qiang announced that the GDP target set by the central government for 2024 is “around 5 percent.” Is there any realistic prospect that China hits something like that with the economic hurdles in the year ahead?

Bill McCahill, Nadege Rolland, and Michael Wills

About Asia Insight

The NBR podcast series Asia Insight features interviews with top Asia experts about key issues affecting the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on implications for U.S. policy and businesses. Subscribe to Asia Insight on Podbean and Apple Podcasts and let us know what you think of the podcast on Twitter.

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This podcast was edited by Sandra Ward at NBR.