China’s economic future is being influenced by nine economists, but what did they tell Xi Jinping this week?
- Chinese President Xi Jinping met with nine prominent economists this week to help with the development of the 14th five-year plan for 2021-25 which is due next year
- Each of the economists has advocated specific policies that could shed light on Beijing’s policy priorities in the years ahead
President Xi Jinping this week assembled a group of nine economists as part of the process for the development of Beijing’s strategy for the next five years, with a new approach to urbanisation, addressing the rapidly ageing of the population and moves to catch up to the west in technological areas seen to be high on the list of economic and social priorities.
The 14th five-year plan, which will cover 2021-25, will not be published until next year.
Justin Lin Yifu, a former senior vice-president at the World Bank and now a professor at Peking University, is a long-term advocate of the state taking an active role in industrial planning to help developing countries quickly catch up with advanced economies.
Lin, a former Taiwanese military officer who defected to the mainland in 1979, said in a speech this month that China can maintain an annual growth rate of 5 per cent to 6 per cent in the coming decade as long as the country makes good use of its development potential.
This would, according to Lin, allow China to bypass the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2030.
Lu Ming, a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, believes that China should make its big cities even bigger. Despite the government having the opposite view a few years ago when Beijing tried to develop a host of small cities and towns, Lu’s call for China to focus its urbanisation plan on its big cities is now being endorsed.
In May, Cai said that China’s high-quality labour force would remain a big advantage and allow it to catch up in areas of technology by increasing its innovation capabilities.
The inclusion of Wang Changlin, head of the National Development and Reform Commission’s macroeconomic research academy, suggested support for a “new whole country mechanism” to break US efforts at technological containment.
Wang was the driving force behind the nation’s strategically emerging industries plan. As early as 2012, he put forward his countrywide competition idea under which Beijing should marshal the country’s entire pool of state, market and social resources to pursue industrial and technological leadership.
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Xi also listened to speeches by Zhang Yuyan, the head of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the China Academy of Social Sciences.
In one recently published article, Zhang said China must uphold the rules of the World Trade Organisation and seek an open and multilateral trade system to challenge the unilateralism being pursued by the US.
Zhu Min, a former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is a long-term advocate of China taking a bigger role in international governance as well as the internationalisation of the Chinese currency.
Zheng Yongnian, the former director at the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, attended the symposium under his new title as the head of global and contemporary China studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen).
Zheng has been arguing for China to develop its own ideas and theories on proper governance and diplomacy.
Fan Gang, who co-founded a club of reform-minded economists along with Vice-Premier Liu He, Xi’s top economic adviser, and Jiang Xiaojuan, also a prominent government adviser, were also at the meeting.
For many observers, the selection of the nine scholars is itself an important signal.
Liu Shengjun, head of the Shanghai-based China Financial Reform Institute, said the purpose of the symposium was not only to listen to different points of view, but also to “convey a message to society” about the direction of government policy and the nation.
“The dominance of the domestic market will become more apparent in the foreseeable future. We will insist on the strategic direction of supply-side structural reform, adapting production, distribution, circulation and consumption mainly to domestic needs,” Xi said in a speech which concluded the symposium.