The role of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is often misunderstood by some people in the West. [Special coverage]
Comparisons to Britain's House of Lords or the U.S. Senate are usually the first mistake. Actually China has neither "noblemen" nor the state's rights against federal power.
The CPPCC National Committee, which convenes its annual session each year in March, brings together representatives from all walks of life -- economists, scientists, educators, doctors, diplomats, religious leaders and celebrities. They are the core advisors in China's law-making and decision-making processes.
Script writer and political advisor Wang Xingdong has gone to great lengths in recent years to champion Chinese screenplay, which he says has been tarnished by vulgarity and plagiarism.
He was, therefore, pleased when a top guideline on culture released in October promised funding for writers.
"It would have been forgotten if we had not kept calling for it," Wang said. "This is [our] role in governance."
Artists from Hollywood and Broadway may have similar problems, but they are not invited to hammer out policies. This advantage is absent from the Western electoral system.
The advisory body is an organ for multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
Economists, like Jeffrey Sachs, were outraged by U.S.President Barack Obama's trade protectionist remarks, and quite a few well-educated, experienced insiders bridle at the outrageous proposals made by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. However, they have neither the power nor tools to push their agenda as directly as China's political advisors.
Take Tang Jianwei, a law professor at Renmin University. He was invited to a CPPCC National Committee biweekly consultative seminar in January, which intended to seek advice on law-making for courier services. Tang delivered a speech at the seminar about judicial process in cases concerning disputes.
Yu Zhengsheng, CPPCC National Committee chairman, presided over the meeting, which also saw the minister of transport and a legal work official. Tang's opinions were heard by the leaders, and his role is not mere lipservice.
Herein lies the key difference between China's advisory system and Western congressional hearings or White House forums.
In addition to its advisory role, another main function of the CPPCC is supervision.
Ge Jianxiong, a political advisor and historian, last November was contacted by an official with the Ministry of Public Security. He was told that a problem he identified had been solved.
In August, Ge wrote a letter to the CPPCC National Committee because the names of those with some ethnic groups, like the Uygur, were too long to be entered into the identity card system, meaning that many were unable to open their own banking accounts. The ministry updated the computer system.
It is important to note that China's political advisors are not lobbyists. President Xi Jinping said in his speech at the 65th anniversary of the CPPCC in 2014 that the political advisory body should give full play to its advantages: broad representative, well-connected and highly inclusive.
They are not hired by interest groups, although some advisors are business owners themselves.
They are not technocrats either. The top legislature, which is proportionally representative, has the final say in law-making.
Generally speaking, they are experts in their fields whose advice and opinions are taken seriously by top policymakers.
While many Western countries are split by elitism and populism, China's unique "check and balance" system could teach them a thing or two.