China’s Economic Growth Shifts from High-speed to High-quality
Since 2012, after completing a period of preliminary growth and a period of rapid growth, China’s economy has entered a third, more prosperous period. Meanwhile, a “new normal” has arrived, marking a shift from high-speed growth to high-quality development, from a middle-income society to a high-income country, and from “some get rich first” to “common prosperity.” The country has since ushered in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
On March 5, 2018 at the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), Premier Li Keqiang unveiled projected targets for development this year in the Report on the Work of the Government: GDP growth of around 6.5 percent, CPI increase of around 3 percent, at least 11 million new urban jobs, urban unemployment rate within 5.5 percent and basic parity in personal income growth and economic growth.
These targets consider the need to secure decisive victory in the construction of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and are designed to align with China’s economic transition from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development.
In 2017, China’s economy continued growing steadily and healthily, achieving better-than-expected performance. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up that began in 1978, as well as a crucial year for achieving the 2020 development goals and implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan. This year will herald efforts to put the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) into action. In this new stage of development, China needs solid progress in all aspects of economics to achieve high-quality development that is more innovative, coordinated, environmentally friendly, open and fair.
First, China needs to strengthen innovation-driven economic development and maintain continuous improvement of the quality of economic growth. Innovation capacity is the fundamental driver of high-quality development. Wider implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy will further enhance overall labor productivity, total factor productivity and potential growth rate and further promote the trend of technology-driven development. This year, major measures to help innovation play the lead role in vitalizing the real economy include full implementation of a plan to develop strategic emerging industries, progress in fostering emerging industries to create stronger new momentum for economic development, acceleration of the upgrade of traditional industries and vigorous promotion of advanced manufacturing to nudge made-in-China towards middle and high ends. Additional new policies will accelerate the development of modern service industry and services trade and strengthen the construction of infrastructure networks concerning water conservancy, railways, highways, water transportation, aviation, pipelines, power, information and logistics.
Second, China needs to design new, effective mechanisms to promote more coordinated economic development. The coordinated development philosophy is crucial to tackling imbalanced growth hindering high-quality development. In 2018, China needs to further optimize its economic structure and fully unleash the potential of service consumption and green consumption in driving economic growth to achieve a more balanced economic structure. China will continue implementing the coordinated regional development strategy to make the regional development occur more rationally. China will also accelerate the construction of beautiful special towns and beautiful countryside areas and promote integrated urban-rural development.
Third, China needs to focus on green development and advance its ecological progress. The green development philosophy is important to achieving harmonious coexistence between man and nature, which is a characteristic of high-quality development. This year is crucial to comprehensive improvement of environmental quality. To achieve this goal, China needs to reform the system to build an ecological civilization and improve the functional area system. It needs to promote an energy production and consumption revolution to create a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system. Moreover, the country needs to launch low-carbon pilots and demonstrations, play an active role in international cooperation on climate change and make Chinese contributions to global environmental governance.
Fourth, China needs to make its economic development more open and develop new advantages in international cooperation. The open development philosophy is essential for China to increase its economic strength and overall national strength. It is expected to solve problems related to interactions with the outside world along the road to high-quality development. This year, China needs to improve the structure, institutions and mechanisms for opening up to create a new and more comprehensively open landscape. In the process, it needs to lighten market access in an orderly manner, fully implement the management model of pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list, improve laws concerning foreign investment and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights. China will continue improving the business environment to attract foreign investment and expand the scope of non-financial foreign direct investments. China will promote the orderly, healthy development of outbound investment and gradually form a global trade, investment, financing, production and service network.
Fifth, China needs to realize fairer economic development and let all people enjoy the new fruits of development. Enhancing living standards is the ultimate goal of development. To safeguard and improve the people’s livelihood, it requires solving the most specific problems of utmost and immediate concern to the people. The government must do all it can within its capacity and accurately define the most prominent issues and their root causes. In 2018, China needs to improve the level and quality of public services and take correct measures in areas like education, employment, income, social security, medical care and senior care to meet the public’s growing demand for better living standards—and enable people from all walks of life to share the fruits of reform and development.