Beijing has learned lessons from the pandemic and plans to rebuild China’s economy. The course is set in the new five-year plan.
While the pandemic is still raging around the globe, more than 5,000 delegates who have traveled from all parts of China will meet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing from this Friday. It is the most important political show in the country, at which every year the state and party leadership has the MPs approve the official goals and government programs of the CP leadership. This year there is also the new five-year plan, in which the political elite sets the course for the economy, politics and society in great detail over the next few years.
Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate
To ensure that everything goes smoothly, all members of the National People’s Congress and its advisory body have now been vaccinated, as the chairman of the pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, Yu Qingming, proudly announced. A huge vaccination campaign was going on all over Beijing – no one, from taxi drivers to cleaning staff, is supposed to endanger the normality demonstrated.
Sinopharm is only one of three Chinese corporations that have developed a corona vaccine. The whole world is currently experiencing how important it is to have your own pharmaceutical industry. China has drawn further conclusions from the pandemic: its dependence on the world market, on imports of high technology and the US trade war – all of these experiences are reflected in the five-year plan from 2021 to 2025.
It has not yet been published, but according to Chinese media and experts, the plan, under the leadership of state and party leader Xi Jinping, is to pave the way for China’s strongest economy in the world, contains the following priorities:
This means a major change in China’s economic policy, which will also play a major role for Western entrepreneurs: Beijing is focusing on the development of the domestic market, which is to become the main engine of the economy with subsidies and programs à la longue. In order to boost the domestic market and consumption, the strategists have to turn many screws.
There are mega-tasks in the education sector, in the health and social system, in job campaigns away from the big cities, in order to achieve a certain level of prosperity for the masses in a country with 1.4 billion people.
Not only the huge urban-rural divide worries those responsible, but also the demographic development. After decades of the one-child policy, which has already ended, and the enormous housing prices in cities, the aging of society is advancing. In 2020 there were 15 percent fewer newborns than in the previous year.
In order to reduce its dependency on international suppliers, China wants to invest massively in innovations, for example in artificial intelligence, quantum computers and semiconductors. According to experts, this requires a lot of know-how from abroad. Should the US tighten its export controls and thereby block China’s access to new know-how for cutting-edge technology, that could well become a big problem for Beijing.
Beijing has ambitious climate targets in all areas, and a lot should be put on track over the next five years. By 2035, all energy-intensive and environmentally harmful industrial sectors such as the steel industry are to be converted to “green” production methods.
The Communist Party leadership has a great interest in not failing: its power and legitimacy can only be secured in the long term if the environment and the economic survival of the giant people are secured through a sustainable economy.
Experts from the China Institute Merics in Berlin give two more reasons: The leadership in Beijing has recognized through the trade conflict with the USA that they have to secure the Chinese demand for food and energy – and that with efficient, sustainable means. The task is enormous, as China is still getting 660 gigawatts of electricity from coal-fired power plants despite huge investments in renewable energy.
If scientists and practitioners can find convincing solutions to this, they could become world leaders in this area of technology.
Arming to global power
The military budget – with a view to the USA, Taiwan and Hong Kong – is to increase by around seven percent. Helena Lagarda from Merics: “From the Communist Party’s point of view, a strong, modern military is a prerequisite for China to become a global power by 2049.” Beijing is also sending a “strong signal” to the USA and other Western states that the military modernization continues to be “a high priority” for the leadership despite the difficulties caused by the corona pandemic.
“Patriots” for Hong Kong
The air for pro-democratic activists is getting even thinner. After the security law in response to the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong, the next step is now to take Hong Kong even more strictly under the curb: A planned electoral reform should ensure that only “patriots” – as candidates loyal to Beijing – are elected to the Hong Kong parliament . The disposition test could be carried out by its own committee.
The election committee that elects the Hong Kong head of government could also be reassembled. The committee, which consists of 1,200 members, is already predominantly made up of representatives of professional and business associations loyal to Beijing. According to the plans circulated by the state media, the 117 district councils of Hong Kong who have been represented so far and belong to the democratic camp could also be removed from the committee.
The new law is celebrated by the state media as the “high light” of the People’s Congress session. Elections will take place in the former British crown colony by the beginning of December at the latest.
Fight against “conspirators”
The opposition in Hong Kong is already feeling the harshness of the security law, which has been heavily criticized internationally. It is directed against activities that Beijing sees as subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial. Several well-known activists have been sentenced to prison terms for relatively minor offenses in the past few months.
A number of Hong Kong activists recently fled to other countries out of fear of prosecution by the new Hong Kong State Security Act.
“One country, one system”
Since July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has been part of China again, but is governed according to the principle of “one country, two systems”. This agreement actually provides that Hong Kongers will enjoy “a high degree of autonomy” and many freedoms for 50 years until 2047. However, since the Security Act was passed, many have only spoken of “one country, one system”.