The Fifth Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 29 endorsed a national development proposal for 2021 to 2025. It also set a target for building a modern socialist country by 2035, based on a careful analysis of the complex changes in domestic and international environments. By defining the guiding principles, approaches, targets and priorities in national development, this proposal charts China’s road map for the foreseeable future. Overall, it has four distinguishing features.
First, the proposal holds long-term relevance as a workable plan. In addition to identifying priorities in national development, it establishes principles and approaches that promise to achieve the development targets. In 2020, China is expected to complete its first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society, so that the country will embark on the second goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects in 2021. Therefore, the 2021-25 period holds strategic significance.
The proposal sets targets for economic development, reform and opening-up, cultural development, ecological protection, social well-being, and national governance for the next five years; and it lays out five principles the nation must embrace to achieve those targets:
• The leadership of the CPC is the political foundation and fundamental guarantee of success in building a modern socialist country;
• People-centeredness is the central objective of Chinese socialism and a source of momentum for all development programs;
• A new development philosophy is the guiding principle for social-economic progress from 2021 to 2025;
• Expanded reform and opening-up is an inevitable requirement and an effective path to enhance modernization;
• A holistic way of thinking is the methodology of the country’s modernization drive.
In addition, the official document states that it is imperative to leverage both domestic and international environments; ensure development and national security simultaneously; and coordinate reform, development, and stability in an integrated manner.
Second, the proposal demonstrates the CPC’s logical decision-making and strategic confidence. Although the document doesn’t set a specific target for economic growth in the 2021-25 period, its well-defined targets mean that it is imperative, and also possible, that a certain growth rate be maintained. It is possible because of the unique political, institutional, and developmental advantages, as well as the opportunities that the country enjoys. The political advantage lies in the leadership of the CPC, and the institutional advantage in China’s ability to pool resources to achieve ambitious goals.
Meanwhile, the developmental advantage is a result of the nation’s rising strength in all terms, while the development opportunities are presented by the international environment, which is undergoing transformations not seen in a century. Despite the many challenges these dramatic changes bring, opportunities abound.
Third, the proposal underscores the strategic importance of development and the need to advance with the times. China remains the world’s largest developing country and is at the primary stage of socialism. Its current status means that for the CPC, the ruling party, development remains the top priority in national governance.
In fact, the 14th Five-Year Plan can be best understood from the perspective of development. Specifically, China aims to achieve high-quality development, sustainable development and inclusive development that delivers shared prosperity. These three kinds of development are interconnected and mutually reinforcing: high-quality development is the foundation, sustainable development is the engine and inclusive development is the ultimate goal.
Fourth, the proposal takes a dialectical view of self-reliance and international engagement. Today, the domestic and international environments have witnessed dramatic changes. Globally, a new round of technological and industrial revolution is gathering momentum, the global balance of power is experiencing a profound adjustment and peace and development remain the defining trends of the times.
At the same time, the international environment is growing more complex, with an increase in unstable and uncertain factors and deepening trends of unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism. Domestically, China has enhanced its capacity for greater development and national governance and maintained a stable domestic environment, but unbalanced and inadequate development remains a big challenge.
In response, the proposal argues, China can and should devote more resources to boosting domestic development and stimulating the domestic market to achieve high-quality development and create new internal sources of growth. At the same time, it needs to expand more sectors to global competition on a larger scale and promote the interaction of domestic and international markets to enhance win-win cooperation and deliver benefits to China and the wider world.
This view points to the strategic focus and engine of China’s development and, more important, speaks to the close relationship between China’s development and global prosperity, as well as the country’s contribution and commitment to world peace and development.