BEIJING, March 3 -- Veteran lawmaker Mao Fengmei considers himself well prepared for the upcoming annual session of China's top legislature. This year, the 66-year-old's main concern is raising subsistence allowances for needy rural residents.
Mao has been a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) since 1993. Over the past 21 years, he has submitted some 200 suggestions on over 60 issues of public concerns in rural areas.
"I am a farmer, so I know about the countryside," said Mao, who is also the deputy secretary of the village committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Dalishu Village in Liaoning Province in northeast China.
Since 2012, Mao has been a staunch advocate of raising pensions for old-age rural residents.
Urban residents in China have long enjoyed better basic pension benefits compared to those in the countryside under the separate pension systems.
For Mao, the current old-age pension for rural residents is simply too low, while bridging such an urban-rural income gap would stimulate the rural economy by boosting consumption in the countryside.
"The elders in my village live a rather good life thanks to our village's collectively-owned enterprises, but this is not the case in many other villages I have visited," Mao said.
His suggestion drew prompt feedback from the authorities. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has invited lawmakers to conduct joint research on the issue, while the State Council also published its decisions on the development of China's old-age care industry.
Mao said he had noticed the changes, and was pleased with the news. All of his suggestions during the past two decades have concerned agriculture, rural areas and farmers.
The farmer-turned legislator was also among the first lawmakers to suggest that the agricultural tax be exempted when serving as a deputy to the 9th NPC. That suggestion came into reality in 2006.
"At that time, a lot of my fellow lawmakers could not believe that anyone would make such a suggestion," he said. "So you could imagine how thrilled I was when that suggestion eventually came true."
Mao, who was elected as an NPC deputy in 2013 for the fifth time in a row, said, "I feel the great responsibilities on my shoulders as an NPC deputy."
Some 3,000 NPC deputies like Mao were elected for a five-year term last year. In China, deputies to county- and township-level people's congresses are directly elected by voters, while deputies to people's congresses above county level are elected by deputies at the next lower level.
Unlike western lawmakers, most Chinese legislators hold another full-time job, working across the country in different sectors.
Such a level of diversity offers lawmakers considerable insight into China's national conditions and public opinions.
Compared with previous years, the lineup of the 12th NPC included more farmer- and worker-turned lawmakers. Young college graduate-turned village officials like Xian Runxia also made it into the NPC.
Born in 1984, Xian is the deputy Party secretary of the village committee of Shatou Village in Guangdong Province in south China.
As one of the youngest deputies to the 12th NPC, Xian also believes that legislators holding other full-time jobs best fits the country's conditions.
"My office is open to villagers all year round, so they can come in and chat with me whenever they want, and I can gather a huge amount of information at grass root levels when working," Xian said.
"If you act in a really serious way, they (the villagers) probably will not talk to you," she said.
The current system allows the top legislature to hear what people are saying at grass root levels, she said.
Still, aside from chatting with fellow villagers, Xian would also do her homework and conduct research before making suggestions on a certain issue as a legislator.
This year, her suggestions will focus on the rural water environment and social values held by young Chinese.
According to official figures, authorities received some 7,500suggestions following last year's "two sessions" -- namely the NPC session and the annual session of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body.
He Yehui, deputy secretary-general of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, said Chinese lawmakers play a key role in formulating capital decisions of the country and in supervising the national organs of state power.
Meanwhile, they have also fulfilled their duties by presenting motions and suggestions of public concerns, he said, adding that these motions and suggestions can only stem from extensive contacts with the people.
Hundreds of motions and thousands of suggestions are presented every year, but identifying public concerns and making suggestions are still a long way off before actually solving the problems.
"It takes time for the government to look into the matter after a suggestion is made, to conduct comprehensive research and alter its policies," said Mao.
"I have been contacted more often than before over the past years by the NPC and relevant authorities with the State Council," he said, recalling changes over the past two decades.
"Sometimes they would brief me on updates as to the status of my suggestions, sometimes they want to verify the facts, and sometimes they would invite me to a symposium," he said.
Indeed, for the State Council, how to respond to lawmakers' suggestions is of vital importance.
On Feb. 7, Premier Li Keqiang presided over an executive meeting of the State Council, which began with hearing a report on the progress made in responding to the suggestions made by lawmakers in 2013.
According to the report, authorities have responded to some 88 percent of suggestions and 92 percent of motions presented by legislators last year, while the majority of problems raised were solved.
Six decades after the First NPC was convened in 1954, the people's congress system is still beaming with vigor.
Although it is largely different from the western parliamentary system, the people's congress system will continue on its course toward perfection, and will serve as the political basis for the Chinese dream of the national rejuvenation.