Key meeting set to address domestic, external challenges

By Wang Cong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/26 21:43:40

Nation charts course to becoming No.1 economy, high-income society

China's 13th Five-Year Plan achievements on transportation

Top officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Monday convened a key policy meeting that would set the trajectory of the country's social and economic development in the coming five years and outline vision for the next 15 years, which would offer a clear window into how China plans to tackle a litany of domestic and external challenges and what the emerging global power aims to achieve in the medium-to-long term.

The fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee is expected to focus on proposals for the formulation of the country's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and long-term goals through the year 2035, in a continuation of a decades-long political tradition, in stark contrast to turmoil and chaos around the world, noticeably in the US - a vivid testament to the strong resilience and efficient policy execution of China's unique political and economic system.

In line with new economic trends, top CPC officials will likely avoid setting specific numerical targets for the 14th Five-Year Plan, but it will likely further build on the success over the past five years in a wide range of areas from economic growth and poverty alleviation to environmental protection, and will aim to achieve two milestones: becoming the world's largest economy and largest high-income society in the next decade or so, despite unprecedented and quite often unpredictable risks, experts noted.

Five-year plan Photo:VCG

Inflection point

The four-day meeting comes at a critical inflection point for both China and the world. Globally, the world is still facing a raging COVID-19 pandemic that has exacerbated a confluence of crises, including rising protectionism and an increasingly unhinged US government. Domestically, while China has effectively reined in the epidemic and embarked on a speedy recovery trajectory, risks of virus resurgence remain, and earlier losses mean some long-term targets could be missed.

"The meeting, and more specifically the new five-year plan, could not have come at a better time, as the country and the world face great uncertainty," Xu Hongcai, deputy director of economic policy commission at the China Association of Policy Science, told the Global Times on Monday.

This year will also mark several key milestones in China. It would be the final year for the current 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) as well as the eve of the 100th anniversary of the founding of CPC next year. Coming with the two key occasions are the deadlines for a slew of targets in economic and social development. Among the biggest goals are for China to double its 2010 GDP in 2020 and the elimination of extreme poverty.

"Given the uncontrollable factors like the novel coronavirus epidemic and trade wars, some of the quantitative targets might be missed," Tian Yun, vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, told the Global Times on Monday.

The goal to double the 2010 GDP in 2020 would require a roughly 5.5 percent growth this year; however, due to the COVID-19, the Chinese economy is expected to grow at around 2 to 3 percent this year. Also, the target under the 13th Five-Year Plan for China to achieve average annual growth of 6.5 percent could be missed, experts noted.

"However, as we have been stressing, those figures do not matter anymore; what matters is that the trend for China to make progress in many areas, from economic growth and environmental protection to poverty alleviation, has not been disrupted by all these challenges," Tian said.

Chinese officials have also highlighted major achievements made during the 13th Five-Year Plan, including total GDP nearing the 100 trillion yuan mark ($15 trillion) in 2019, GDP per capita surpassing the $10,000 mark and the country being on track to completely eradicate extreme poverty.

During a meeting on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan has been smooth, as the key strategic tasks and 165 major projects have all been carried out, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Also during the period, China achieved milestones in many other areas, including becoming a leader in the next-generation (5G) network technology, completing the BeiDou Navigation System, and developing the first homegrown passenger aircraft C919.  

"There are many highlights of the 13th Five-Year Plan, but the biggest one is that these five years showed that the Chinese system and the Chinese model outperformed the long-praised Western system," Cao Heping, an economist at Peking University, told the Global Times on Monday, "I think that's the biggest achievement and the biggest asset for our country going forward."

Future milestones

While top officials will likely skip setting specific numerical targets for the next five years or even the next 15 years, broader and longer-term milestones could be set: China is set to overtake the US to become the world's largest economy within the next few years and become a high-income country, experts said.

"Becoming a high-income country, in particular, would be historic. China would be the only country that has a population of over 1 billion to reach that mark," Tian said, noting that with that status comes a fundamental shift for the Chinese economy in terms of consumption, technological innovation and business climate. "High-income consumers will drive all types of economic activities."

Counting on the consumption power of the domestic market, Chinese officials have already indicated that the 14th Five-Year Plan would adopt what's called a "dual circulation," with the main focus being on the domestic market, while also expanding the external one. 

That is also in line with China's pursuit of a high-quality growth model, where consumption - rather than investment and exports - would drive economic growth. Domestic consumption already contributes over 57 percent to China's GDP growth annually.

"The dual-circulation strategy is aimed at fully utilizing the massive domestic market as external risks are on the rise; however, that does not mean China will give up the external markets," Xu Hongcai said, noting that opening-up would continue to be a main theme for the Chinese economy for years to come.

Chinese officials have also repeatedly vowed to further open up the Chinese market to more foreign businesses and products and improve the domestic business environment, which experts say will also likely be included in the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Also aiming to tackle external risks, the 14th Five-Year Plan will put emphasis on homegrown technologies in a wide range of fields, including semiconductors, new materials, quantum computing and new-energy vehicles, experts noted. 

Given the intensifying US campaign to crack down on Chinese tech companies, "it is within expectation that there will be more policies to boost domestic research and development in critical technologies," Tian said, adding that at the current pace, "it could be expected that global tech leadership will slowly shift to China in the next few years."

Posted in: ECONOMY

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