China unveils five-year road map
Updated: 2011-03-11 10:52
By Li Xing (China Daily European Weekly)
Premier vows to improve people's livelihoods and ensure more share the fruits of nation's growth
Premier Wen Jiabao on March 5 unveiled the road map for China's social and economic development during the next five years, setting targets for the quality and efficiency of economic growth and speaking about the transformation of the growth mode and economic restructuring.
While delivering his annual government work report, he also listed other priorities that include improving people's well-being, advancing education and healthcare, conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.
Wen was addressing the opening of the fourth session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), which will run until March 14. His speech highlighted the central government's draft 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which the NPC deputies - the lawmakers - will review.
The draft plan will become official guidelines after it is endorsed by the almost 3,000 deputies.
Members of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, also gather in Beijing between March 3 and March 13, discussing major issues concerning the nation's development.
Wen said the major focus of the government's work this year will include reining in inflation by keeping the consumer price index, a major gauge of rising costs, to an increase of about 4 percent.
The government will also boost the incomes of farmers and pensioners, increase consumer demand, enhance agricultural development and speed up economic restructuring.
"Ensuring an adequate food supply for 1.3 billion Chinese people is always a top priority and we must never take this issue lightly," Wen said.
To achieve the GDP growth goal for this year, Wen listed measures that will ensure more people share the fruits of reforms and economic development. These include the creation of more than 9 million jobs, the reduction of the tax burden on low- and middle-income people and an increase in government subsidies for the rural cooperative medical care system.
The overall growth goals for the coming five years are pragmatic, with average annual GDP growth set at 7 percent, 4.2 percentage points lower than China achieved on average between 2006 and 2010.
Despite calls from some officials and experts to speed up urbanization, the draft plan projects a 4-percent urban expansion rate, 0.5 percentage points lower than the actual urbanization growth rate during the past five years.
China will continue with its efforts to tackle climate change by pushing for energy efficiency and cutting energy consumption and CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively. It will also enhance environmental protection by reducing the release of major pollutants by 8 to 10 percent.
China will put more emphasis on clean air and water, and ramp up its efforts to cut down carbon emissions during the next five years, Martin Sajdik, the Austrian ambassador to China, told China Daily after attending the NPC's opening session. This is very important "not only for China but also for the whole world", he said.
Ren Xianfang, senior China analyst from IHS Global Insight, said in his analysis sent to the media: "The Chinese leadership is shifting further from a growth-at-all-costs mantra toward a development-oriented strategy that emphasizes economic, social and environmental sustainability."
Ren said China is also "conducting a new industrialization drive that focuses on boosting added-value and creating jobs. That implies more avaricious acquisition of key technologies and aggressive development of emerging strategic sectors that could put China in the same league as developed countries in such industries."
The new tasks are identified in the Government Work Report to better address domestic problems and meet global challenges.
Wen said the world's economic slump following the financial crisis in late 2008 had a far-reaching impact because there is still no solid footing for a global economic recovery. The prices of major commodities and the exchange rates of major currencies "have become more volatile in the international market, with asset bubbles and inflationary pressures growing in emerging markets".
China is especially aware of the importance of global economic restructuring and rebalancing, he said.
Moreover, China has to tackle a plethora of its own growth impediments.
"We are keenly aware that we still have a serious problem: Our development is not yet well balanced, coordinated or sustainable," Wen said.
China's growth has been held back by resource and environmental constraints, a lack of scientific and technological innovation, an irrational industrial structure, a weak agricultural foundation and imbalance between investment and consumption, he explained.
Income divide wider
China achieved a 10.6 percent annual rise in per capita GDP since 2006. However, Wen admitted the income divide has become wider and a development gap remained between urban and rural areas and between regions.
While acknowledging the challenges, Wen said the government must "work tirelessly and painstakingly to solve these problems more quickly to the satisfaction of the people".
The road ahead will not be smooth, some experts say.
"The Chinese leadership faces multiple constraints, such as employment challenges and resistance from regional and industry interests groups," Ren said.
Hu Yongqi, Xu Fan and Xin Zhiming contributed to this story.
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