The annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference has opened at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The CPPCC kicks off a political high season that will continue with the opening of the National People's Congress on Thursday 5 March.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference CPPCC
A conductor of a military band performs during a rehearsal for the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Feng Li/Getty images)

Around 2,000 delegates are expected to attend this year's CPPCC session. Members hail from various walks of life and ethnic groups, as well as from token political parties meant to assist the ruling Communist Party in running the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy.

The conference is ostensibly a venue for voices from the full spectrum of Chinese society who issue proposals meant to advise the 3,000-member legislature in its work.

The advisory body has no formal powers, although membership bestows a measure of prestige and provides ample opportunity for networking.

Chinese President Xi Jinping walked into the main meeting room of Beijing's Great Hall of the People followed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC, opened the session and delivered a lengthy speech praising the body's work.

The body's proposals are considered a rough barometer of public opinion, signalling issues of concern from industrial policy to domestic violence.

Among this year's proposals are those calling for three years of maternity leave, the further loosening of China's birth policy, cheaper high-speed train tickets and the printing of new bank bills that would render worthless the stockpiles of cash held by corrupt officials.

Also serving on the panel are celebrities, including movie superstar Jackie Chan and Yao Ming, who use the venue to bring media attention to their causes, such as the former NBA player's campaign against the ivory trade.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference CPPCC
Former Chinese NBA star Yao Ming makes his way through a crowd of journalists to the steps of the Great Hall of the People (Greg Baker/AFP)