Future Development Course Outlined

As soon as the 15th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China closed its three-day fifth plenum on Wednesday, some Western observers said it was devoid of surprise and detail.

That was no surprise because fresh thinking does not necessarily take the form of eye-catching news or new jargon.

Detail seekers will have to wait until March when the National People's Congress examines and ratifies the next five-year plan drafted by the central government.

Despite the absence of detailed figures, the plenum offered something more strategic.

The five-year plan will tell us what we want to achieve by 2005, the policy blueprint at the plenum decided the course of our economy and society well beyond that time.

The one target that can be considered solid is the goal of doubling the country's gross domestic product by 2010.

The centerpiece of the plenum was a list of priorities for the next five years. They included strategic restructuring of the economy, higher quality and efficiency of growth, modern corporate mechanisms for State firms, a complete social security system and more jobs.

Many of these things have been heard of before. But the prescription of "fairly speedy growth" and "deeper international cooperation and competition on a wider range" as guiding principles is something fresh.
Prior to this, high growth was more an economic reality than a pronounced policy goal. Now it is officially recognized as a tool to "solve contradictions and problems existing in economic and social lives."

Also noteworthy is the plenum's emphasis on structural readjustment as the "thread" of reform and opening-up. This will work with progress in science and technology as the "impetus" for upgrading the economy.
Singling out structural problems is a result of gains and losses in the past, the last five years in particular.

Robust growth during most of the last 22 years once concealed the potential damages of faulty structures. These included problems with individual firms, some regional industrial structures and systems within the national economy. These problems stood out and became increasingly easy to see as the economy slowed down between 1993 and 1999.

Stockpiles, which once grew in proportion with factory inventories, taught the lesson that productivity alone does not paint a reliable picture of the economy.
Forcing supply to match demand in a country where consumption was previously led by production is a lesson we are just learning.

The plenum's call for transforming government functions to facilitate transition towards a market economy again shows the Party's pragmatic approach.

Aside from extensive coverage of the technical aspects of the economy, the plenum paid special attention to such problems as unemployment, social security, and how to increase farmers' incomes.

Along with a vow to make sure people get practical benefits from economic growth, such ideas suggest a sense of urgency in addressing social issues.

Judging from what was made public yesterday in the communique, the Party plenum focused well on the important issues the country has to tackle.

The ever clearer signs of recovery at the end of the ninth Five-Year Plan period have made a more ambitious package possible in the next five years.

(China Daily 10/13/2000)

(C) China Internet Information Center E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68996214/15/16