BOUNTIFUL HARVEST: Rice ripes in Donglan County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (ZHOU ENGE)
The Central Economic Work Conference held on December 10-13 made plain that making progress while ensuring stability will be the focus for 2014, the first year to fully implement the guidelines of the Third Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee.
For one, China should maintain consistency when formulating its economic policies by inheriting the principle of making progress while ensuring stability adopted in 2012. For another, the country should carry out economic reforms stably, give consideration to medium and long-term economic goals and enhance quality and efficiency of economic growth, said Jia Kang, Director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science under the Ministry of Finance.
In 2014, downward pressures will persist, with other social and economic problems, such as overcapacity in some industries, structural unemployment, ecological environment deterioration, food and drug safety and public security.
At the same time, global economic recovery will remain fragile. New growth engines have not yet been discovered, and uncertainties still exist in the monetary policies of major powers, their investment and trade patterns, and commodity prices.
Against the odds, China will try to maintain stable economic expansion next year. This explains why the country will continue to follow a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy.
Unexpectedly, grain security tops the six major tasks put forward at the conference.
According to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, China's total grain output reached 601.94 million tons in 2013, up 2.1 percent year on year, marking an increase for 10 consecutive years. Moreover, China imports large quantities of grain from the rest of the world every year. In the eyes of many Chinese, food should not be a problem.
Li Guoxiang, a research fellow from the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that the priority given to grain security reflects the importance the Central Government attaches to the issue.
Even though China has witnessed continuous increases in its grain output, consumer demand has also grown every year. China still faces great pressure to maintain a consistent growth in grain output.
Obviously, the Central Government insists that China's grain security should be guaranteed by its own supply, and imports should only play a supplementary role. It was the first time that the concept of "moderate import" was put forward at the Central Economic Work Conference, which hinted that China would not rely entirely on grain imports.
Now, China's grain production still faces an array of challenges, such as high costs, narrowing room for output increases, extensive use of arable land and heavy dependence on imports of corn, rice and wheat.
To surmount these factors, China should transform its agricultural development pattern, strengthen the construction of agricultural infrastructure and advance agricultural scientific and technological progress.
Debt risk prevention
In recent years, a large number of local governments across the country have acquired debts due to blindly seeking GDP growth and pitching into vanity projects. At the Central Economic Work Conference, the government attached great importance to the prevention and control of the local government debt.
Jia suggested that since local government debt may affect the banking industry and government finance at all levels, the Central Government should pay special attention to the debt problem to strengthen their responsibility and risk awareness.
In the United States and Europe, debt problems have undermined social and economic development. Though China has a different political system and governance mode, the local government debt crisis, once it breaks out, will drag down the financial industry, which serves as the economic lifeline.
Before the conference, the State Council issued a statement rejecting GDP as the sole gauge for assessing the achievements of government officials.
The Central Economic Work Conference reiterated the importance of maintaining reasonable GDP growth, pushing forward economic restructuring, and ensuring both the quality and efficiency of economic growth without negative effects.