Zhai Jianlan/Xinhua/Zuma Press
BEIJING—An exceedingly important event in Chinese politics is unfolding in the Great Hall of the People.
It may take a rap song to draw the attention of the people.
An annual conclave in the hall involves thousands of delegates studying printed transcripts as they listen to long speeches about the latest government accomplishments and policies. They turn the pages in unison.
Delegates ponder topics such as “Improving Consumption-Promoting Systems and Mechanisms to Unleash the Potential of Personal Consumption.”
The Communist Party wants the average person to be interested in “Two Sessions,” as people call the event because two conferences meet simultaneously, and state media trumpet its revelations. But Chinese know Beijing’s real decisions happen behind closed doors, and generating public interest in the meeting is a challenge.
Which is where rapping comes in.
This year, the government’s Xinhua News Agency commissioned a video by pop artist Su Han, who wrote a rap song in English to detail China’s accomplishments—resulting in lyrics ranging from “eject rapaciousness like shaking off nephrolithiasis” to “submersible vehicle” and “cloned macaques.”
The refrain: “We’ve got ‘two sessions,’ w-we’ve got ‘two sessions.’ ”
Mr. Su said “this song can be called a mission” to put China on the world stage. He structured it after Eminem’s “Venom” and studied English-language state-media reports for ideas. Writing lyrics to include “carbon dioxide in the woods” and “poverty alleviation” wasn’t easy, he said—but the video got 3 million views within 48 hours.
greg baker/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Held every March, the two-week confab is the most public event on the nation’s political calendar. It involves meetings of China’s ceremonial legislature and of a related advisory body, which meet together at various points in the two weeks. The combination is supposed to be a showcase for China’s model of governance, of which President Xi Jinping wants Chinese to be proud.
This year, it’s officially the Second Session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the Second Session of the 13th National People’s Congress. Delegates include not only politicians and military commanders, but also heads of tech giants, economists, artists and cultural notables such as NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming and actor Jackie Chan.
During last year’s meetings, a reporter’s eye roll captivated Chinese social media by capturing the tedium.
State television shows assembled delegates reading reports and listening to speeches. This year, a
account used facial-recognition algorithms and scanned the TV footage to identify delegates sleeping during sessions. Though China blocks Twitter, some people still access it using software to circumvent censorship. The tweets were quickly deleted and the account posted the message: “It is not my intention to subvert state or Party authority.”
State-media reporters do show intense interest, lunging on delegates going in and out, shouting questions. On opening day earlier this month, reporters surrounded one delegate with a sea of cameras.
The delegate told them: “I was excited when I saw the speech given by the General Secretary in the political and art section of the Political Consultative Conference last night.”
A reporter surreptitiously took a picture of his name badge. Another asked, “Who are you?” The delegate was opera singer Liao Changyong.
State-media coverage of the event, which wraps up Friday, can seem stilted, because its target is senior party officials, said David Bandurski, co-director of the University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project. “We are not the audience,” he said. “And to the extent that the messages do reach us, they don’t translate very well.”
The Two Sessions media center said the two national conferences drew a high level of attention and more than 3,000 Chinese and foreign journalists signed up to interview delegates at the two national conferences.
The Two Sessions gravitas is reinforced by heightened security in Beijing, where barricades pop up and subway-goers get an extra frisk.
Would-be nightclub-goers arrived for a night on the town last weekend to find clubs had closed for two weeks. Yun Feiyang, manager at Mix nightclub in Beijing’s hip Sanlitun neighborhood, spent Friday night shooing away cabs of poshly dressed patrons.
Near midnight, two women hopped from a cab and stood shivering in the empty parking lot. Mr. Yun explained the club would be closed during Two Sessions for equipment maintenance and training. “Where do we go?” asked one. Mr. Yun suggested a small bar or a “music restaurant.”
Andy Wong/Associated Press
Karaoke-bar owner Wu Hai said on the
social-networking site that the government’s order to shut down for two weeks came with the suggestion he tell patrons it was for a “renovation upgrade.” Closing his four Beijing bars would mean losing 2 million yuan (about $300,000), said Mr. Wu, who said on WeChat that he kept his club open, inviting the government to inspect him.
“This is inconsistent with the strategy of the Beijing Municipal Government to vigorously develop the nighttime economy,” he wrote in a post that was removed as a security violation. He declined to comment.
Across from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, tourist Zhang Fengqi from Inner Mongolia said he didn’t realize Two Sessions was happening until he noticed extra security. Unfortunately for him, Beijing cordoned off a big tourist destination, the hall where patriarch Mao Zedong’s embalmed corpse lies under glass, because delegates were attending a meeting nearby.
“I am a little bit disappointed,” said Mr. Zhang. “I worship Chairman Mao.”
Outside People’s Hall, state-run Great Wall New Media journalists Yan Chengqun, and Geng Jia tried to drum up excitement. While delegates inside continued their silent page-turning, Ms. Geng broadcast from a multi-armed selfie-stick-like affair outfitted with several electronic devices while Mr. Yan took photos.
“China is drawing a lot of attention,” Mr. Yan said, “like a celebrity or a star.”
For some people abroad, Two Sessions does include one point of interest: China’s yearly release of projections for its economy. In Beijing, foreign reporters line up for hours to snatch the paperwork containing the data.
But when this year’s figures flashed across monitors, many U.S. brokers and traders met them with little more than a shrug. The lower growth forecasts were expected.
“Was that yesterday?” said Bob Haberkorn, a senior commodities broker at RJO Futures in Chicago, a day after the downbeat forecast. “You know, it really wasn’t that earth-shattering.”
—Bingyan Wang and Ira Iosebashvili contributed to this article.
Write to Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com