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Having Their Say
Cover Stories Series 2011> NPC & CPPCC Sessions Wrap-Up> Having Their Say
UPDATED: March 20, 2011 NO. 12 MARCH 24, 2011
Foreign Views

CLEAN ENERGY EXPORTS: An engineer at Changxing Wind Power Technology Co. tests the wind power turbines in a company factory. China will pursue sustainable and green development during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15) (DONG NAIDE)

When the Fourth Session of the 11th National People's Congress was held on March 5-14 and drew the nation's attention, expats in Beijing also followed the meeting. Beijing Review reporter Liu Xinlian interviewed foreign nationals completing their master's degrees in public administration at School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University about the government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao and the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) approved at the session.

Steven Andrews (United States, student): China's 12th Five-Year Plan emphasizes a more sustainable and socially inclusive strategy for development. Decreasing the speed of economic growth from 7.5 to 7 percent, along with more stringent environmental goals, will all help the transformation to a cyclic economy. A significant increase in the minimum wage for the next five years will also promote a harmonious society.

However, foreign comments say there does not appear to be a change in the hukou (household registration) system. There's also the continued reliance on state enterprises and state-owned banking system.

China's ability to effectively develop strategic long-term plans stands in stark contrast to the United States, which can't even agree on a budget.

Even Roger Pay (United States, program analyst): Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report was in many ways similar to the State of the Union Address by U.S. President Obama this January. Both leaders highlighted important themes in economic development, public welfare, environmental protection, job creation and peaceful diplomacy. However, a number of obvious contrasts also emerge.

Premier Wen is much more specific about the commitments of China to meeting environmental energy targets. This issue is much more politically fraught in the United States and, as a result, Obama has been less aggressive here.

Jason Liu (United States, student): The government work report highlights China's key development goals. The subjects include agricultural economy and science and technology. China's farmer population still makes up the majority of the population, therefore the government should focus on this group of individuals if its goal is to shrink income gap.

Science and technology have caught the attention of policymakers since China's future workforce trend is to transform from labor intensive to knowledge intensive. Therefore, science and technology investment is crucial for the transformation.

Florisse Rousselin (France, teacher): Focus was placed on the importance of addressing domestic corruption. Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out how some problems still haven't been reduced and would be worked out, such as inflation, particularly on agricultural goods and food.

In view of growth rates, the future objective has been announced to be around 8 percent for the coming year, and around 7 percent for the next five years—somewhat lower than last year's 10 percent. Concerning the monetary policy, the government plans to remain cautious, bringing the broad money supply up by 16 percent.

Teng Leng Lim (Singapore, civil servant): The government work report comes across as a piece of humble work. Apart from recognizing the achievements during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), the government also recognizes that it has fallen short of some expectations and has failed to deliver to the people. It is very rare to see this in a speech from a senior political leader.

I see the 12th Five-Year Plan as a bold plan to make the life of the people better given improved income distribution, better and affordable housing and medical care.

The indication of 7-percent economic growth is a strong message by the Chinese Government to grow in its economy not just in terms of speed, but also by quality. Also, more efforts will be taken to make sure that the economic growth is not at the expense of environment.

Matthew Myers (United States, financial analyst): As for the 12th Five-Year Plan, I am encouraged by the emphasis placed on improving the environment as well as addressing the inequality of wealth within the country. Furthermore, the focus on improving rural lives, in addition to developing the infrastructure of rural areas, should help set China on a path toward achieving a more sustainable form of development.

Holly Hao Zhao (United States, student): Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report seems at once, more specific [than an American president's State of the Union Address] with regards to targets achieved and progress made, yet more general in terms and methods used to implement the targets.

One striking aspect of the government work report involved the new goal of 7 percent as the estimate for GDP growth in the future, emphasizing the importance China is now placing on sustainable development, as opposed to overall growth.

Harry John Pellegrini (United Kingdom, student): The 12th Five-Year Plan is comprehensive, but lacks rebalancing measures and action on key matters such as military reorganization, corruption, income disparity and the extension of opportunities to rural residents. The largest single cause of current inequality—the hukou system—was not mentioned and development was still focused on national strength rather than improving the imperatives of self-determination and extension of opportunity.

Michael Peter David Brewer (United States, English language teacher): My concerns about the 12th Five-Year Plan are: With regards to the migrant workers being encouraged to move to and work in second-tier cities, what will the modifications of the hukou system be? Will the benefits extend to their families—by this I mean, free school for their children, access to health care? Will this result in a shortage of labor in first-tier cities resulting in higher wages for the remaining workforce?

With regards to the government's commitment to reducing electricity consumption by 16 percent, will the government encourage collaborations with foreign firms which possess innovative green technology?

To allow for the possibility of renewable energy to become viable, it is my opinion that a "smart" electricity grid must be developed. Currently, wind energy is being wasted because it cannot be connected to the grid. I want to know what is the government's plan regarding this.

Han Chen (United States, student): The government work report contains a surprisingly large number of hard statistics, compared to the U.S. State of the Union Address, and highlights economic and social achievements. Wen highlighted a number of pressing social concerns, such as the rise in food prices, effects of prolonged drought in some regions, need for reforms and crackdowns against corruption.

Also, emphasis was placed on lowering GDP growth targets, which are consistently lower than reality later on, and measuring the quality of life rather than only economic growth.

Environmental concerns also took center stage, but only so much as related to sustaining sources of energy, water and other vital resources with foreseeable limits. Attention was also paid to development in provinces further west and southwest as they develop more, although it is not clear how this point is drastically different from the 11th Five-Year Plan.

Odmaa Narantungalag (Mongolia, customer service representative): Premier Wen Jiabao has prioritized several measures in his government work report. One of them is to bring development to all people. The government wants every individual to have access to a better standard of living. Another issue is that more than ever before the Chinese Government is focused on decreasing the income disparity between the poor and the rich, thereby increasing the middle class.

Moreover, the government is focusing on green development. Unlike many other countries, China is in the process of formulating a happiness index that captures Chinese culture and unique characteristics, in addition to high per-capita GDP growth.

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