China pushes domestic economy, tech power in five-year plan

Residents wearing masks pass by the Communist party logo and the slogan "Party building leadership" in Beijing on Oct 29, 2020. China will promote "technological self-reliance" under the ruling Communist Party's latest five-year plan but will open further to trade, officials said Friday. - AP

Beijing, Oct 30, 2020 (AFP): China's Communist leadership outlined a five-year vision on Friday to develop the country into a powerhouse centred on stronger domestic spending and tech self-reliance, but held back from the usual practice of issuing an overall economic growth target.

Top leaders announced the country's new economic direction after a four-day conclave in Beijing, with the nation facing intense international pressure including a lingering trade war with the United States and suspicion towards Chinese brands like TikTok and Huawei overseas.

They stressed "high-quality development" over fast-paced growth, with leaders flagging the need to form a "new development pattern" based on strong domestic consumption.

The opaque meetings of China's leaders are held behind closed doors, with a statement on the decisions only published after the gathering concludes.

The meeting's communique, released Thursday in state media, estimated gross domestic product would exceed 100 trillion yuan ($14.9 trillion) this year.

But it also warned of an "increasingly complex" international environment and heightened uncertainties.

China's economy plunged 6.8 per cent in the first quarter because of the Covid-19 outbreak, but it has recovered and looks set to be the only major economy to achieve growth this year.

Axi chief global market strategist Stephen Innes told AFP the "constant threat of disruption from Western interests spearheaded by the US administration" was driving China towards domestic consumption.

And Capital Economics warned that without cultivating new domestic sources of growth, China's GDP expansion could slow to two percent by 2030.

This week's discussions centred on China's 14th five-year plan since the People's Republic was founded in 1949.

The plan will now be presented to the country's rubber-stamp parliament -- the National People's Congress -- for formal approval.

There had been hopes the meeting would flesh out details of President Xi Jinping's surprise pledge that the country would reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, but the statement was light on details.

The meeting did call for more promotion of low-carbon development, more efficient use of resources and prioritising conservation.

China accounts for a quarter of the planet's greenhouse gases and has relied heavily on coal to spur development.

The communique said China now aimed to become a "moderately developed" economy by 2035 and brought forward an earlier growth target on per-capita GDP by 15 years. - AFP
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