China’s NPC radiates growth confidence – as expected in the centenary year

8 March, 2021

China’s still ongoing annual National Party Congress (NPC) gives a substantial number of short-term objectives and long-term strategies to the 3000 delegates. Celebrating in 2021 the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) makes this year’s convention quite special (as I pointed at in my latest blog from February 24 on http://chinaresearch.se/ ).

Interesting details from the NPC – with obvious growth optimism    

¤  Encouraging GDP objective for 2021. Going back to my own blog source above, I felt quite sure before this year’s NPC that Prime Minister Li Keqiang would please the delegates (in Chinese:”lawmakers”) with an encouraging GDP forecast for 2021, maybe between 7 and 8%. Indeed, this range was not very far away from Prime Minister Li’s finally announced goal for 2021 – “more than 6%” in economic growth. I may regard “more than 6%” as somewhat conservative but I see this number as positive as well. Even 7-8% this year remain achievable.
Conclusion: In my view, an official GDP growth by “more than 6%” is indeed an encouraging goal despite the relative weak statistical basis from last year – and not a cautious one as initially described by many international commentators. The inflation goal of 3 % for 2021 seems to be alright as well.                                                         

¤  Comeback for long-term issues. In the past quarters, Chinese and global analysts dealt strongly with short-term issues due to the damage that had been caused by the corona crisis. During this year’s NPC, also long-term objectives for high tech, clean energy, electric cars and other ways to improve the environment were taken up. However, I miss a more promising strategy for de-carbonization. President Xi Jinping also reminded of necessary improvements of education and healthcare. Remarkably, no numeric goal for GDP has been set for the recently commenced 5-year plan. My best guess is that it will turn out being something close to 5%.    
Conclusion:
Updated yearly GDP objectives should be good enough in the future for short-term and for 5-year planning – and also for improved flexibility.

¤  Continuous priority of innovation and technology. Prime Minister Li repeated at the NPC what is widely known: “Innovation remains at the heart of China’s modernization drive. We will strengthen our science and technology to provide strategic support for China’s development”. Despite the fact that all this is expressed only verbally, China’s technological ambitions have been underlined one more time.
Conclusion: Westerners should not underestimate the Chinese ability of spreading technology both internationally and of using it at home, for power-conserving reasons as well. The Chinese want to reduce their dependence from the U.S. – also by increasing their annual R&D budget by 7% yearly between 2021 and 2025. Green development is given a lot of priority. President Xi Jinping seems to favor the creation of a green-GDP concept, too.

¤  More priority for private consumption. Also this specific strategy is not really new but it is part of the new 5-year plan. Of course, there is an intention to achieve this by more domestic production of consumption goods – supported by the political promises of reasonable increases of disposible incomes.
Conclusion: This policy strategy is obviously linked to the plan of modifying the Chinese economic model by somewhat reducing the role of exports and investments as growth factors and instead increase the share of private consumption related to GDP – probably as much as possible supported by “Made in China” (but I could not find further updated detail on this latter issue).

¤  Focus on stability. Particularly Prime Minister Li Keqiang emphasized the need of stability in many areas – for ensuring future progress in the Chinese society and economy. Among the mentioned areas were employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, investments, supply chains – and obviously Hong Kong.
Conclusion: Different risks are and remain an issue for China’s political leaders.

¤  Important changes for Hong Kong. Beijing seems to plan far-reaching changes of the election system making it impossible for opponents to the People’s Republic to be promoted to any influential political position in Hong Kong.
Conclusion: Developments in Hong Kong remain an important topic for analysis. Probably, Hong Kong will increasingly be regarded as a part of Mainland China internationally. Hong Kong appears moving to “one country / one system” considerably faster than one could expect some years ago when having read the still valid Hong Kong Basic Law. https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk/en/basiclawtext/images/basiclaw_full_text_en.pdf

Summary – no surprise but tightened tone against Hong Kong

Altogether, the NPC did not offer special surprises this year. Not even the relative GDP-growth optimism can be interpreted as surprising. Really notable, however, appears the widened political threats from Beijing against opponents in Hong Kong.

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
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China’s political leaders will soon give important messages

24 February, 2021

At the end of next week, China’s most important political decision makers and delegates from all over the country will come together in Beijing to join the National People’s Congress (NPC), the formal legislative organ of the People’s Republic and often in the West described as a kind of parliament. The NPC is always – both formally and informatively – an important event. This year, the NPC should be regarded as even more important than usual (more about this below). There are at least five outstanding ingredients the Chinese leaders probably will promote at the NPC as success stories of yesterday, today, and probably tomorrow:

¤  the elimination of absolute poverty in 2020 – indeed a major success;

¤  not the situation but the consequence of the political tensions with the U.S. and the EU, making it possible for China to demonstrate its capacity of increasing political and military power; exciting to watch what tone with the U.S will be applied;

¤  the superiority of China in the systemic fight against covid-19, and the achievement having been the only major economy with positive GDP growth in 2020; furthermore, I really would be surprised if the official GDP forecast for 2021 looked modest; 8 is the luckiest number in China, so I predict a GDP goal in 2021 at 8% (or somewhat lower, 7-8%);

¤  the new 5-year plan, possibly being presented again in a positive Communist Party (CPC) centenary spirit with more details – maybe including applicable plans how possibly to convert China into a high-income country;

¤  the strong vision of making it possible for China to double its GDP per capita by 2035 – hopefully explained by revealing details.

2021: A very special year – the centenary of the Communist Party of China

All these – in CPC sense – good news for the Chinese people will be embedded in a particularly positive way because of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Party of China. This should be kept in mind when interpreting different NPC speeches starting on March 5.

It will be very interesting to observe how concrete or vague different objectives will be presented at the NPC – particularly when it comes to China’s high-tech future and the way to manage the objectives of the “Made in China 2025 plans” and beyond. What will the President of China and CPC Chairman Xi Jinping tell the NPC audience more concretely about the long-term objectives and projects until 2035? Hopefully more about envisaged social and environmental improvements. Certain official hints in this direction have already been made in a previous official outline for long-term goals until 2035.

Finally, I am very keen to know whether a reasonable evaluation of the reform plans from the Third Plenum of 2013 until 2020 will be presented (which originally was planned for 2020). Last year, I could not find any detailed evaluation.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
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Transparency, openness and honesty in the fight against covid-19

16 February, 2021

This time, I am publishing only a short article – but in both English and Swedish, https://blogg.lnu.se/fromlet-bbsresearch/ . The main objective is to point at the insufficient efforts of the government and  authorities to optimize transparency, openness and honesty in the Swedish fight against covid-19.

In my view, more can be done. This can be said about media as well. How many debate articles have so far been published with institutional angles as mentioned above? However, my main objective with these lines is not to criticize politicians, authorities or the press. My intention is rather to focus on an important scientific research area which until now has been completely underestimated by practitioners.

Swedish corona-transparency is still not convincing for an advanced economy. Too much is hidden, difficult to find or left out at press conferences. The same can be said about openness with several occasions last year of downplaying the covid-19 risks. Altogether, there is an obvious risk of deteriorating honesty gradings (see also Eichengreen et al below).

I am talking in this context about institutional economics, a research area that was awarded with the Nobel Prize at several occasions (Coase, North, Ostrom, Williamson). Douglass North (1920-2015) is often regarded as the father of New Institutional Economics.

Currently, professor Barry Eichengreen (Berkeley) belongs to the outstanding academics with a major institutional nexus. In 2020, he published in Finland – together with Aksoy and Saka – the following interesting lines related to our topic:

“…trust and confidence in government are important for the capacity of a society to organize an effective collective response to an epidemic. Yet there is also the possibility that experiencing an epidemic can negatively affect an individual’s confidence in political institutions and trust in political leaders, with negative implications for this collective capacity…”

https://helda.helsinki.fi/bof/bitstream/handle/123456789/17490/dp1420.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Eichengreen et al describe exactly what I mean. Better awareness of the problems mentioned above by politicians, health authorities and media could move the fight against covid-19 a bit longer in the right direction.

This conclusion can also be applied to other advanced countries and emerging markets.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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