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CvT: A Path Forward for China in the 14th Five-Year Plan

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Earlier this month, China announced its 14th five-year plan (FYP), a strategy taken from the Soviet socialist model in the 1950s to chart development and growth. Despite the fact that this approach pulls from a more archaic aspect of communism, FYPs have adapted to a breadth of changes since their inception, including adapting to a business environment increasingly filled with privatized sectors. In the case of China, the shift from a planned economy to a market economy with socialist characteristics has made the FYP more of a broad guideline of objectives rather than a realistic step-by-step plan. Though FYPs often emphasize economic growth, the 14th FYP plan also highlights key issues such as innovation, green development, and technology.

Taking a page out of self-reliance

Following a turbulent year, Beijing has publicized the pervasive theme moving forward – self-reliance. One of the key ways the country plans to achieve this is through the implementation of the dual-circulation system. This process has made its rounds even prior to the plan’s announcement, and its end goal is to fortify the country’s economy by ramping up domestic consumption and localizing supply chains to meet domestic demand. At the same time, the system highlights the importance of remaining open to foreign investors while encouraging domestic companies to expand abroad. To address the national security implications of advancing core interests despite volatile external factors as seen through 2020’s pandemic and diplomatic tensions, the plan also stresses self-reliance in technology and energy frontiers as well.

Innovate or die

The second big theme in the plan is “innovation.” Intimately tied to the technology sector, innovation largely refers to the strategic areas that China has prioritized, such as AI, electric vehicles, and robotics, which has also driven the nation to look closely at intellectual property rights and high precision manufacturing capabilities. Innovation also touches upon China’s supply chain as officials push for a transition to more high-value production of specialized goods. Other initiatives that fall under this umbrella are attracting and developing talent – specifically in areas of entrepreneurship and emerging technologies – and exploring methods to facilitate the sharing of ideas.

Cleaning up emissions

Finally, Beijing has prioritized its efforts towards green development in its long-term planning. China’s energy transition as discussed in the FYP attempts to tackle climate change, with plans to cap carbon emissions by shifting away from coal consumption towards clean forms of energy. Targets for non-fossil energy generation will primarily span hydropower and nuclear technologies, while also improving grid integration of solar and wind power – which combined contribute around 5% of the nation’s current energy sources.

As China prepares to celebrate the 100th year of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021, it will be able to celebrate the achievement of becoming a “moderately prosperous society” by eradicating extreme poverty nationwide. The world will have to check back in a few more years to see if China has been able to accomplish the more difficult feat of becoming self-reliant in an increasingly globalized world.

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