China’s Plan to Win in a Publish-Pandemic World: What You Have to Know
China unveiled a roadmap for solidifying its rise in a post-Covid world when it opened one of its biggest political events of the year on Friday, voicing its success against the coronavirus as evidence of the superiority of its top-down leadership while it did warned of threats at home and abroad.
The heavily scripted political pageant, which is the annual meeting of the Chinese stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, is largely ceremonial. However, the meeting offers a glimpse into the priorities of Chinese leaders and their vision for the future.
The message on Friday was optimistic about the strength of its economy and the solidarity of its people, and about the battle against a range of challenges: a hostile global environment, demographic crises at home and resistance to rule by Hong Kong.
Here’s what you need to know.
A stronger grip on Hong Kong
Last year, the annual legislative assembly took a surprising turn when Hong Kong leaders announced sweeping new security laws aimed at suppressing months of pro-democracy protests.
On Friday, Beijing tried to stifle all traces of this movement by revealing a revision of the territory’s electoral laws to ensure a system of “patriots ruling Hong Kong”. The changes would make it extremely difficult for advocates of democracy to even run for office.
According to the plan, the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, will be amended to change the selection process for the director general and legislature of the territory. A revised election committee is given the task of helping to select candidates for the legislature.
The changes will lead to a new electoral process with “Hong Kong characteristics,” said Wang Chen, a Politburo member who specializes in legal affairs, in a speech. The process will also be under Beijing’s control more firmly than ever.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was restored to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise to grant it high levels of autonomy for 50 years. “Beijing’s full takeover of Hong Kong, however, can happen well before 2047,” said Diana Fu, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
Xi’s vision for China after the pandemic
The government promised economic growth of “over 6 percent”, a relatively modest target by China’s pre-pandemic standards, but a major turnaround from last year and a signal of its commitment to keep the world’s second largest economy going.
The forecast shows that China expects a strong recovery after the pandemic stalled the country’s economy for several months last year. China ultimately saw 2.3 percent growth in 2020, its lowest rate in years, but its tough measures against the coronavirus allowed it to reopen its economy while rivals like the United States and the European Union continued to limp.
“Our people have worked hard and fought adversity in close solidarity and with the unyielding spirit of the Chinese nation to prove themselves true heroes,” said Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, when announcing the goal. “This is the source of strength that enables us to face any challenge and overcome any difficulty.
The emphasis on triumph in the face of difficulties reflects recent efforts by Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, to find a balance to steer the country through what the ruling Communist Party sees as a time of great risk and great opportunity.
March 5, 2021, 6:57 p.m. ET
As countries continue to grapple with the pandemic, the party has picked up on the message that China’s political model of strong, centralized leadership is superior to the chaos of liberal democracies.
Strengthening this message will be a primary focus for Mr. Xi as he looks to two major political events. The party celebrates its centenary in July. Then, in 2023, it is widely expected that Mr. Xi will take up a third term as president after attempting to lift the constitutional term limits in 2018.
“All of this is part of the slow progress in raising his profile as the person who will lead the Chinese Communist Party into its second century,” said Carl Minzner, professor of Chinese law and politics at Fordham University in New York. “It’s about getting him into a position close to Mao’s.”
Defense against external threats
As China’s science and technology rivalry with the United States and other countries continues to grow, Beijing digs deep into its pockets to claim victory.
In order to achieve “innovation-driven development” and “high quality” growth, the government announced that its spending on research and development would increase by more than 7 percent each year for the next five years. Funding for basic research will also increase by 10.6 percent in 2021.
Just over a year after the coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Beijing also pledged to increase resources to protect against emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity risks.
To reduce the country’s reliance on the outside world, the government said it will focus on a range of cutting-edge technologies, including next-generation artificial intelligence, quantum information, neuroscience, semiconductors, genetic research and biotechnology, advanced clinical medicine and healthcare, and space , Deep sea and polar exploration.
The Communist Party’s most recent five-year plan explicitly provides for the construction of a “Polar Silk Road,” which is believed to help China make better use of new energy sources and faster shipping routes in the Arctic.
Beijing also reiterated its strong support for more traditional defense areas, a priority under Mr. Xi.
China’s military budget is expected to increase by around 6.9 percent this year, a slight increase over the previous year. With total government spending expected to decline slightly, the People’s Liberation Army will continue to have solid funding.
The increases in spending over the past two decades that have given China the world’s second largest military budget today have paid for a program of modernization and expansion aimed at restoring the U.S. military dominance in the Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea and the surrounding areas of Taiwan. to challenge.
Under Mr. Xi, China has significantly expanded its missile capabilities and modernized its strategic nuclear forces. The Chinese Navy has also grown rapidly and is now numerically larger than the American fleet.
The government addressed concerns about China’s aging population and the decline in the workforce by announcing pension reforms and gradual changes to the official retirement age, which has been 60 for men and 55 for women for four decades.
Falling birth and marriage rates, as well as rising divorce rates, have raised concerns among policymakers about the decline of traditional family units, which are seen as critical to promoting social stability and economic growth.
On Friday, the government announced plans to build a system to support “family development” and strengthen marriage and family counseling services. It also pledged to deepen the implementation of a 2016 Domestic Violence Act, improve childcare and eliminate gender discrimination in employment.
Beijing also made clear its intention to press ahead with efforts to assimilate or “Sinize” the country’s many ethnic and religious minorities, despite increasing global pressure to crack down on Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in the western region of Xinjiang.
“Fully implement the party’s basic policy on religious work,” a draft of the five-year plan reads. “Continue the sinization of Chinese religions and actively guide the religions so that they are compatible with socialist society.”
Steven Lee Myers contributed to the coverage.