After presiding over a series of symposiums in recent months to directly listen to the opinions and suggestions in various fields related to the upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for members of the public and people from all sectors of society to offer advice though diverse channels so that social expectations, the wisdom of the people, expert advice and experience at the grassroots level can be integrated into the plan.
During the symposiums, representatives from all walks of life, as well as scholars, scientists, and entrepreneurs from various fields including education, medicine, economics and culture industries, all shared their opinions with the president, who later noted that “to meet the people’s desire for a happy life is our mission,” while “compiling the 14th Five-Year Plan should be a response to the wishes of the people and also understand people’s thoughts and expectations.”
“The Chinese hold high expectations of the upcoming five-year plan, as it is the first and most crucial step to realizing [China’s second centennial goal],” said José Medeiros da Silva, a Brazilian professor at Zhejiang International Studies University.
Having issued five-year policy plans since 1953, the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) will be endorsed by the Party’s Central Committee at the fifth plenum of the 19th Party Congress by the end of October. The plan, which comes at the intersection of the nation’s “two centennial goals,” will set the tone for China’s future development, with the public showing great interest in participating in the policy-making process, Professor José Medeiros added.
The “two centennial goals” refer to building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centennial of the CPC, which was established in 1921, and building a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the centennial of the People’s Republic of China, which was founded in 1949.
According to experts, by soliciting public opinions and passing them to experts and officials to tailor professional and responsible plans, ordinary people can participate in the nation’s governance, while professionals can help realize the people’s needs in more efficient and scientific ways.
Reflecting people’s needs
Having solicited public opinions online for the compilation of the 14th Five-Year Plan since August 15, the Chinese authorities have improved their polling methods to find out what the public really needs. By using websites and client-side applications of China’s major media outlets, Internet users are being encouraged to offer their suggestions on the nation’s future social and economic development.
From August 16 to 29, the Leaders’ Message Board, an online forum affiliated with People’s Daily Online that solicits public opinions, received over 1.1 million pieces of public advice on the 14th Five-Year Plan. Among the participants, 28.8 percent are from government sectors and state-owned enterprises, 15.4 percent are professionals, 11 percent are students, while freelancers and privately or individually-owned businesses account for 9 percent of the total.
Local authorities across China have also provided different ways to help the people voice their needs, encouraging locals to provide suggestions for the 14th Five-Year Plan. For instance, the Tianjin government started to solicit public opinions in 2018, compiling a list of 31 major pieces of advice covering a variety of sectors. In 2019, 30 research institutes from China and overseas were selected to refine this advice, based on which over a thousand scholars have come up with a draft to enrich the content of the nation’s five-year plan.
“This top-down design is not arbitrary interference in the market, but a scientific blueprint based on a wide range of opinions and discussions,” said Yan Yilong, a research fellow with the Center for China Studies at Tsinghua University.
According to Yan, at least two years are needed for China to make a five-year plan, as scholars, officials and policy makers immerse themselves into the capillaries of society, soliciting suggestions from people from all walks of life, as well as learning from previous mistakes and holding wide discussions.
“The combination of top-level design and public advice in compiling the 14th Five-Year Plan shows the merits of China’s socialist democracy,” added Yan.
Implementing a visionary plan
“Unlike visions set for nations’ future development, for instance, the State of the Union address in the US, China’s five-year plans place the emphasis on implementation,” said Yan.
According to statistics from National Development and Reform Commission, in 2019, 7.33 million registered poor households renovated their dilapidated houses and construction of 35,000 resettlement areas was completed, comprising more than 2.6 million units of housing that can accommodate 9.47 million registered poor people who have been relocated from inhospitable areas, essentially completing the task set in the 13th Five-Year Plan one year ahead of schedule.
The same goes for environmental protection. In 2019, the proportion of surface water with a quality rating of Grade III or higher stood at 74.9 percent, while the non-fossil fuel share of total energy consumption reached 15.3 percent, with this target set in the 13th Five-Year Plan also being met a year earlier than scheduled.
Every five-year plan has contributed to the miracle of China’s rapid economic development. “If we compare countries to students in a class, China is that student who has caught up by setting long-term goals and achieving them with small plans,” Yan said.
This article was originally published by People’s Daily