UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S TWO SESSIONS AND FIVE-YEAR PLAN
March 18, 2016
Over the past couple of weeks, thousands of China’s elites have converged on Beijing for the annual “two sessions” political meetings. The “two sessions” consist of meetings of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is an advisory body, and the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is China’s national legislative body. During these meetings, the CPPCC’s political advisors submitted thousands of policy proposals and the NPC delegates voted on key measures.
The importance of these meetings is often brushed aside in Western media outlets. It is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), headed by Xi Jinping and the Politburo Standing Committee, and not the national bodies of the People’s Republic of China, that has the true decision-making authority. However, despite the rubber-stamp quality of these meetings, they do serve an important function. They provide a public platform for the Chinese government to present its policy priorities, plans, and goals. When dealing with a country whose policies are often determined behind closed doors, this is one of the few real peaks outside observers get into China’s governance.
During the NPC meetings, the delegates approved the 13th Five-Year Plan, the annual budget, the Supreme People’s Court report, and a charitable organizations law. The charity law is meant to ease the way for charitable giving, which is currently extremely lacking in China. Of course, the main theme of this year’s meetings was the economy. With China’s slowing economic growth, recent stock market volatility, falling exports, and overcapacity issues leading to huge job cuts, the future of China’s economy has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
The largest indicator of how China’s leadership intends to deal with China’s economic concerns can be found in the 13th Five-Year Plan, which the NPC voted to approve at the end of their session. Five-Year Plans are outlines of longer term economic and social programs and goals. These plans provide the foundation for policy decisions. The 13th Five-Year Plan is for 2016-2020. The CPPCC chairman, Yu Zhengsheng, summarized the plan, saying, “We will implement the five development concepts of innovation, coordination, green, openness and sharing, focus on issues in economic and social development, deepening reform and boosting innovation.”
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave a work report and introduced some of the key goals included in the Five-Year Plan. Among the economic plans outlined are promoting supply-side reform to encourage growth, restructuring state-owned enterprises, reducing overcapacity in key sectors such as steel and coal, creating new urban jobs, and liberalizing interest rates. In recognition of China’s slowing economy, it proposes a growth target range of 6.5 – 7 percent instead of the usual set target rate. When asked what would happen if China did not reach this target, Li confidently assured the press that it was “impossible” for China to miss this goal and that there would be “no hard landing” for China.
Premier Li outlined the following goals: China should work to maintain a medium-high rate of growth, ensure innovation drives development, launch new types of urbanization and agricultural modernization initiatives, encourage green industry, deepen economic reform and opening up, and continue to raise living standards. Li further went on to explain that to achieve these goals and build a “moderately prosperous society,” China must prioritize development, make structural reforms, and shift the “driving forces for development.”
In addition to economic considerations, Li discussed efforts to reduce pollution, saying, “We must build a beautiful China where the sky is blue, the earth is green, and the water runs clear.” He also announced that China would increase military spending by 7.6 percent (the lowest increase in 6 years) and improve military modernization. Li mentioned increased access to quality education, improved medical services, cultural reforms, community development, government credibility, anti-corruption efforts, and China’s continuing commitment to the “one country, two systems” framework with Hong Kong.
American observers should pay close attention to China’s policies and plans for the future. China became America’s top trading partner in 2015, making China’s economic future extremely important to the U.S. Premier Li acknowledged this key bilateral relationship during a Q&A session at the close of the NPC session. He said:
“As for the ongoing general election in the US, it has been lively and has caught the eyes of many. I believe that no matter, in the end, who gets into the White House, the underlying trend of China-U.S. ties will not change. It has been several decades since the two countries established diplomatic relations, and the relationship has seen more than a fair share of ups and downs, but it has been always moving forward, which I believe is the underlying trend.”
Full text and official summaries:
Report on the Work of the Government (2016), delivered by Premier Li Keqiang on March 5 and adopted on March 16, 2016, Full Text
Premier Li Keqiang meets the press, March 16, 2016, Full Transcript
Goals, missions of China’s new five-year plan, PRC Embassy, Summary
Key figures and facts in China’s government work report, PRC Embassy, Summary
For more information on this topic, please visit the following links:
Deutsche Welle – “China Congress outlines ‘tougher problems’ with growth target”
New York Times – “Delegates Endorse China’s 5-Year Plan but Resist Saying Much Else”
For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:
Central People’s Government (中央政府门户网站) – “政府工作报告（全文）”
Central People’s Government (中央政府门户网站) – “李克强总理在十二届全国人大四次会议记者会上答中外记者问”
Deutsche Welle (德国之声) – “五年计划与不自由的创新环境”
Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen