Focus on 13th Five-Year Plan > Analysis and Comment

Drafting of new five-year plan shows politically confident China

2016-02-29 15:47

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Nearly 3,000 deputies of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) will convene in Beijing in early March to vote on China's 13th five-year plan, one that will affect the lives of 1.3 billion Chinese and have a significant impact around the world. As the blueprint shaping the world's second-largest economy from 2016 to 2020, the 13th five-year plan is crucial to China's goal of building a moderately prosperous society by 2020. China is hoping to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020.

Aware of the plan's significance, Li Qiu, an NPC deputy from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, has left nothing to chance as she prepares to attend the NPC annual session, which begins on March 5. Li, a pediatrician and vice-president of a top children's hospital in Chongqing, has been surveying local hospitals to quantify a shortage of pediatricians and see what can be done to ease this long-standing problem.

Li is busy finishing up her proposal and will submit it to the coming session. "The more I learn on the grassroots conditions, the better opinions I can provide when examining the draft of the 13th Five-Year Plan at the NPC session," she said. The draft plan is in its final stages. If passed at the NPC plenary, it will come into effect. In fact, the draft to be presented before Li Qiu and other NPC deputies pools the ideas of China's best minds and takes in the thoughts of national lawmakers.

The drafting is a very Chinese political process: The proposition of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) becomes the will of the state in a due course of legislative procedures. The system of people's congresses is the fundamental political system of China. Kan Ke, former deputy director of the NPC Standing Committee's Commission of Legislative Affairs, said the process testifies to the unity of the party leadership, people being the master of the country, and the rule of law. The CPC Central Committee's Proposal on Formulating the Thirteenth Five-year Plan (2016-2020) on National Economic and Social Development was adopted in October 2015 at the Fifth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

The CPC has no special interests of its own other than the interests of the people. The party's proposal was made in a democratic way, said Kan. The CPC Central Committee established a group to draw up the proposal in January 2015. Over the next nine months, the group, chaired by President Xi Jinping, has held surveys and conferences to collect opinions from CPC members, non-Communist parties, industry and commerce federations, and members of the public.

The Standing committee of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau held three meetings to deliberate on the proposal, while the Political Bureau held two such meetings. On tours of east China's Zhejiang Province, southwest China's Guizhou Province and northeast Jilin Province during this period, Xi heard local officials' opinions. In his explanation of the proposal to the plenum in October, Xi said the drafting group gathered and analyzed all comments and suggestions collected over the nine months, and took as many of them as it could. The document sets guidelines and targets for the next five years. It highlights the five development concepts of innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and sharing.

The focus is to seek growth through economic transformation, optimize the industrial structure, improve the environment and enhance quality and efficiency. Once the party's proposal is announced, the government takes the baton to draft the 13th Five-Year Plan on the basis of the party's proposal, converting the five concepts into concrete projects and targets. At a meeting that initiated the drafting on November 17, 2015, Premier Li Keqiang said the national plan must implement the five highlighted development concepts stated in the party's proposal: innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and sharing.

Li has also held several symposiums to take advice from economists, entrepreneurs and representatives from the sectors of education, health care, sports and culture. Nobel laureate Mo Yan attended one symposium in January. The CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau discussed the draft of the plan submitted by the State Council, the cabinet, on Feb. 22. For its part, the NPC passed over advice to the State Council from its own research and surveys.

The NPC Standing Committee came up with 24 survey reports on specific topics. Meantime, national lawmakers like Li Qiu have also made field studies and will contribute their wisdom at the upcoming legislative session. Kan Ke said nearly 3,000 NPC deputies from various backgrounds bring the voices of many different social groups to the annual session. Their ideas will be reflected. The draft plan will finally be put to vote, which means the democratic principle of majority rule applies, said Kan. He said the CPC Central Committee proposed the five development concepts as the goals and guidelines in drafting the national 13th five-year plan.

The specifics of how to achieve those concepts are stated largely in the national plan. Zheng Yongnian, professor and director of the East Asian Institute of National University of Singapore, said the CPC has set realistic goals and will focus on their implementation, while politicians in the West make unrealistic promises only to get elected. For Kan Ke, China is immune from such political ills in the West because the process of turning party proposition into state will is conducive to implementation.

The 12th Five-year Plan was executed under the current 18th Central Committee for three years, regardless of leadership change. "The party's proposition runs its entire course. Our blueprint can materialize to ensure sound development. This is the source of our confidence in our system," he said. At a meeting celebrating the 60th anniversary of the NPC, President Xi said China's socialist political system has proved itself feasible, efficient and has vitality because it was developed in the country's social soil, arguing that any system should be designed and developed according to a country's actual conditions and situations.

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