China’s Two Sessions & Neighbours
With the commencement of the annual session of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, and the first session of the 13th National People’s Council (NPC), China’s decision making body, last week, annual political season has started in China. For the neighbouring countries like Nepal, the NPC session is more important as it is in this session that the Chinese parliament, the NPC, takes decision about what China will focus on its relations with the other countries including its neighours. The NPC is also important for the Premier of the State Council presents the performance of the government during the year gone by and the plans and policies of the government for the upcoming year. On the inaugural day of the first session of the 13th NPC, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on March 5 had presented such a report about the government performance in 2017 and the targets and tasks for 2018.
China kept up with the impressive economic growth even in the past year, according to the report presented by Premier Li to the NPC session. It is interesting to note that economic growth in China last year has been more than the target. In his report to the NPC in March 2017, Premier Li had projected that China would reap around 6.7 per cent of GDP growth while the country in fact achieved a GDP growth of 6.9 per cent in 2017. He had projected that over 11 million new urban jobs would be created and that over 10 million people will be lifted out of poverty in 2017. But, the government made greater achievements than it had targeted. According to the report, in the year just passed, all main targets and tasks for economic and social development were accomplished and performance exceeded expectations. GDP grew by 6.9 per cent, personal income by 7.3 per cent and 13.1 million new urban jobs were created last year. Government income grew by 7.4 per cent. Inward foreign investment reached 136.3 USD, hitting a new all-time high. Thus the Chinese government created 2 million more urban jobs than the target and lifted 3 million more people out of poverty than it had expected. This is something to take note for other countries like Nepal, a least developed country, where governments rarely achieve their development targets.
In his 47-page long report submitted this year, the Chinese Premier has also presented the government’s achievements made in the last five years since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. According to the report, China’s GDP has increased by 59.3 per cent in the last five years, from 54 trillion Yuan in 2012 to 82.7 trillion Yuan in 2017. In the last five years, China’s average annual growth remained 7.1 per cent and China’s share in the global economy grew to about 15 per cent up from 11.4 per cent in 2012. China’s contribution to global growth has exceeded 30 per cent now. Similarly, government revenue has risen from 11.7 trillion to 17.3 trillion Yuan. Presently, 1.3 billion people in China have relatively full employment while urbanisation rate has grown from 52.6 in 2012 to 58.5 per cent in 2017. It is also impressive to see that China has made a lot of progress in building high speed railway. The high speed railway in-operation in 2012 was 9,000 Km while it is now over 25,000 km long, which accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total.
The report also says the living standard of the people has constantly been improving. In the last five years, more than 68 million people were lifted out of poverty, including relocation of people from inhospitable area. Poverty headcount ratio now stands at 3.1 per cent down from 10.2 per cent by in 2012. Basic health insurance plans cover over 1.35 billion people, social old age pension schemes now cover more than 90 million people. Personal income growth has been 7.4 per cent and tourist departure has grown from 83 to 130 million.
The achievement made in the economic and social sectors in the last five years made it clear that China has been able to effectively implement its policy of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, supply side structural reform, innovation-driven development, reform in market economy. The way the number of items for which the central government sets the prices has been cut by 80 per cent over the 5 years and that of local government by 50 per cent indicates that China is working hard to materialise its policy of reform and opening up or market economy. It is worth noting that consumption’s contribution to growth has increased and over 60 per cent of the fees and charges levied on businesses by central government have been abolished and that the number of business investment items subject to central government approval has been cut by 90 per cent.
In his report, Premier Li has projected that China will have 6.5 per cent growth in 2018, create 11 million new jobs and lift over 10 million people out of poverty. He presented that the government expenditure will be 21 trillion Yuan, with deficit of 2.38 trillion Yuan, for 2018. To achieve the targets, he has stressed on, among others, reform and opening up, promoting high-quality development, making China a leader in manufacturing, promoting internet plus government service model, slash non-tax, tax burden on businesses. Mentioning pollution as one of the three critical battles, others two being financial risks and poverty alleviation, Premier Li said that China will afforest about 6.67 million of hectares of land in 2018.
What is more noteworthy is that the Chinese Premier has stressed on ‘deepening relations and achieve common development with our neighbours.’ At a press meet held on March 8 to respond to the press about the government performance, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said, “China will stand up for small and weak countries, and help less developed countries achieve better growth.” While China’s neighbours see with joy the strides China has been taking in development front, they including Nepal are expecting greater Chinese investment for development.