Public face of the secretive system that makes key decisions

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China is in the midst of another large gathering of its political elite less than four months after holding a conclave to install a new Communist Party leadership. The current meeting, the annual session of the national legislature, completes the once-a-decade leadership transition that began in November.

Though the Communist Party is the pre-eminent political power in China, it works through the government.

The National People’s Congress, which opened yesterday, is China’s nominal legislature and will announce top appointments to the government, its ministries, the legislature and other bodies.

The event, which runs for 13 days, bookends the party convention in November that anointed Xi Jinping as general secretary and other members of the Politburo, the apex of power in China.

The congress tends to be highly orchestrated. Decisions have been made by Mr Xi and power-brokers drawn from the party, government and military in closed-door meetings, and the legislature, which is controlled by the party, ratifies those.

Still, it’s the most public event in China’s political calendar and provides a networking opportunity for the leadership and the invited.

Mr Xi and other leaders get a chance to put their message across to the 2,987 deputies, who represent a cross-section of political notables from local governments upwards.

While the decision-making is still secretive, the congress is the way the party makes the decisions public. Policies announced during the session show the Xi leadership’s priorities.

The 300 or so appointments of vice premiers, ministers and others also show whether Mr Xi and his allies are consolidating power or having to horse-trade with rivals.