China's 'Two Sessions' 2016

Key takeaways from China’s 13th five-year plan and annual reports

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 March, 2016, 2:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 March, 2016, 7:31pm

At China’s annual meeting of its top legislative body, three draft reports are usually submitted for delegates to discuss and approve.

They comprise the premier’s government work report, the National Development and Reform Commission’s economic development report, and the Ministry of Finance’s budget report.

READ all the latest stories on China’s annual ‘Two Sessions’ parliamentary meeting

The documents provide a review of the past year and explain how the central authorities will govern the country in the coming year.

This year’s plenary session will also review and approve the proposed 13th five-year plan for the period from 2016 through to 2020.

Here are the five key points to take away from the draft plan and reports.

1. Growth target set at 6.5 to 7 per cent

This year’s proposed target for gross domestic product expansion has been set at a range between 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent.

The range, rather than a specific number, reflects China’s dilemma between pursuing economic growth and pushing ahead with reforms.

“There will be more and greater difficulties for us this year. The challenges are bigger,” Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual work report on Saturday.

“We should be fully prepared for a hard battle.”

Li said he aimed to keep average growth in the five years from 2016 above 6.5 per cent. The target would require strong macro policies this year as the economy was expected to bottom out.

Innovation would be the top driving force for future growth, according to Li’s work report.

By 2020, 60 per cent of China’s economic growth would come from improvements in technology and science, he said.

READ MORE: China to add US$72 billion to budget deficit amid global concern over its debt problem

Beijing would also intensify efforts in supply-side reform to provide momentum for sustainable development.

The efforts were aimed at “improving the economy’s quality and efficiency, and further generating market enthusiasm and public creativity”, Li said.

2. Hong Kong, Macau to play bigger roles in China’s economic development; Taiwan policies to be maintained

Beijing will “elevate Hong Kong and Macau’s positions and roles in China’s economic development and opening up” according to their “distinctive strengths”, Li said.

In its draft 13th five-year plan, also released on Saturday, China pledged to support Hong Kong in furthering its status as a global financial, shipping and trading hub.

READ MORE: Hong Kong, Macau to play bigger roles in China’s economic development, says premier as he pledges support for the two regions

It would also support the city in grooming its innovation and technology sector as well as other new industries.

Beijing vowed to “act in strict compliance with China’s constitution and the basic laws of Hong Kong and Macau” – a statement that reflected its emphasis on national authority.

“We pledge our full support to the chief executives and governments of the two regions as they conduct governance in accordance with the respective laws,” Li said.

He added that Beijing would adhere to previous policies on Taiwan, “firmly oppose secessionist activities” and maintain peaceful development of cross-strait ties.

READ MORE: 5 things Hongkongers should watch for in China’s ‘Two Sessions’

3. Further interest rate liberalisation; government-managed floating system to stay

China has pledged to further liberalise interest rates and stick to a government-managed floating system.

Beijing aimed this year to keep the yuan generally stable on a “reasonable and balanced level” and to control “abnormal flow of cross-border capital effectively”, according to the annual report of China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission.

It would keep liquidity “reasonably adequate”, expecting a moderate increase in the social financing scale, the commission said.

M2, which measures money supply, was expected to rise 13 per cent, compared with last year’s targeted 12 per cent and the actual growth of 13.3 per cent.

4. China to boost overseas defence

The premier also pledged to improve China’s ability to protect its citizens and businesses abroad.

READ MORE: China’s military budget boost the lowest in six years

China would ensure that the G20 summit in Hangzhou this September would go smoothly, Li said. Beijing would “participate constructively” in seeking solutions for global issues, he added.

The government has budgeted 954 billion yuan (HK$1.13 trillion) for defence spending this year – a 7.6 per cent increase from last year. This compared with the 10.1 per cent increase that was budgeted last year.

READ MORE: China’s military needs budget increase of 20pc, says general

5. Slack officials warned, blundering ones to get second chance, rewards for innovators

Li warned officials against neglecting their duties.

China has been facing a situation in which many cadres chose not to perform their duties at all for fear of making mistakes and getting hauled up amid the country’s ongoing corruption crackdown.

Li warned that the Communist Party would have zero tolerance for officials who slacked off on their jobs.

There was room for correction for those who made mistakes and rewards for innovators, he said.

READ MORE: Graft cloud falls over former Communist Party boss of Chinese rust-belt province

“[We will] encourage and support reformers and innovators to make our cadres willing and daring to do their jobs, and do the jobs well,” the premier said.

Local governments were ordered to be more transparent by taking advantage of traditional and new media.

They should provide timely responses to public concerns, keeping the public informed on the work they were doing and how they were going about it, he said.