FARMING FOR THE FUTURE: A helicopter sprays a mixture of pesticide and fertilizer over an area of farmland in Huaxian County, Henan Province. Agriculture remains one of the focus points in China's next five-year plan (WANG ZIRUI)
The Chinese Government has started formulation of its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) as of April 17, anticipating that the country's medium- and long-term economic and social development plan can plough full steam ahead after the current 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) ends. That day, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, which is responsible for compiling the plan, held a televised meeting to arrange the key tasks necessary for the drafting process.
Xu Lin, Director of the NDRC's Department of Development Planning and a key participant in the plan's formulation, said the goal of this plan is to turn China into a high-income country under the World Bank's classification system and complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects as proposed by the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The 13th Five-Year Plan is the first five-year plan that has been formulated since President Xi Jinping took office. This plan will reflect how China's new leadership thinks about the country's future economic and social development.
This plan will take China up to 2020, the year by which China hopes to have reached its target of having built a moderately prosperous society in all areas. The Chinese Government has thus laid an unprecedented level of importance on the drafting of this plan, commencing the formulation process earlier than before. The NDRC has released more than 20 research topics to universities, research institutes, large enterprises, industrial associations and international organizations, with the aim of making the 13th Five-Year Plan as scientific and feasible as possible.
Xu said the commission will also make full use of Internet platforms such as Wechat, a popular messaging and social media app, and Weibo, a twitter-like microblogging service, to interact with the public and attract its participation in drafting the plan.
The research of topics and collection of suggestions are set to proceed until the end of the year, and a primary framework will then be formed. In the first half of 2015, the draft of the plan will be finished and submitted to the State Council. The State Council will then organize several discussions among experts who will revise the draft and then submit it to the National People's Congress for deliberation when it holds its annual session in March 2016.
Xu noted that the 13th Five-Year Plan is being formulated at a time when great changes are taking place in both domestic and international environments. The world economic structure is undergoing changes in the wake of the global financial crisis. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other high-standard free trade and investment pacts led by the United States will have far-reaching influence on China's development in the future. Additionally, the geopolitical situation has become more complicated.
Within the country, since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, China has entered a new stage of comprehensively deepening its reform, facing an unheard-of number of opportunities as well as risks and challenges. China must ensure that its goal of building a moderately prosperous society is realized, that results are achieved in key fields for comprehensively deepening its reform, and that substantial progress is achieved in transforming its model for economic development.
All of the changes in the external and internal environments impose new demands on the formulation of the 13th Five-Year Plan and means that in the years to come, the plan may well take an important place in Chinese, and global, history.
New thinking on development
Much speculation has been made as to what will be involved in the 13th Five-Year Plan. Xu says there are several points that should be focused upon in the detailed consideration of development. For example, with a per-capita GDP of $6,700, China has become a country of largely upper middle-income earners. The government therefore hopes to approach the status of high-income country by the World Bank's standards. But to realize this goal and reach the target of building a moderately prosperous society, China still has some chinks in its armor, such as unsatisfactory results in industrial transformation and upgrading. It will be hard for China to become a high-income country if the transformation process is not driven by innovation and structural upgrading against the backdrop of rising labor costs and intensifying restrictions related to resources and the environment. It is possible that China may remain in the "middle income trap" for some time to come. Therefore the issue of how to better realize innovation-driven development and industrial upgrading must be one of the primary focuses of the 13th Five-Year Plan.