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Chinese leaders swear to technology for self-sufficiency, military might and economic recovery

The Chinese Communist Party was born out of four days of closed-door meetings in Beijing, declaring the country’s leader Xi Jinping a “helmsman” who would lead “the ship of socialism sailing in wind and waves with determination.”

At a time when other world leaders remain devoured by the coronavirus pandemic, China has pledged economic recovery, greater technological autonomy and a stronger military to protect the country’s economic and political interests.

The meeting underscored Xi’s seemingly limitless political control, as well as his ambitions to propel China out of the current crisis into a new phase of growth, less vulnerable to external risks. Here are the main outcomes of the meeting, which outlined the political priorities for the coming years.

After the shock of the coronavirus crisis of the first months of this year, the Chinese economy returned to growth of 4.9% in the July-September quarter and exports rebounded sharply.

In its five-year plan, China aims to expand domestic markets and encourage innovation across the economy – from advanced technology to more efficient agriculture – party leaders said in an official summary of their meeting. This summary did not offer specific growth projections from 2021.

But be patient: Precedent suggests the government will release a more detailed “explanation” of the proposed plan in the coming days.

“The economy improves in the long run,” said the Central Committee, “there is great social stability and favorable conditions on many fronts for continued development.”

Since the Trump administration began restricting China’s access to American technology, Xi has stepped up calls for China to achieve “self-sufficiency” on crucial components.

The party’s Central Committee meeting said that China will make strengthening technological self-sufficiency a priority over the next 15 years. “Emphasize the basic status of innovation in all of our national modernization,” the leaders said. “Make technological self-sufficiency a strategic pillar of national development.”

What this implies for tech policy is unlikely to become clear until the full five-year plan is released next year, and Chinese government ministries and agencies will release their detailed monitoring plans for tech sectors.

Mastering the design and production of silicon chips and other parts can be costly and risky, and industry experts have wondered how far and how quickly China could be successful in decoupling from global suppliers.

“I think a lot of what China is trying to do is devote a lot of resources – financial resources, human resources – to clearly identified issues,” said Andrew Batson, China research director for Gavekal Dragonomics , an independent research company. “Many of the priorities involve the scaling up of existing technologies at the national level.”

China’s five-year plan goes beyond economic growth, especially in these days when public anger over air, water and soil pollution is undermining confidence in the government. China is also facing international pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions that increase global warming, which have exceeded those of other countries for more than a decade.

Xi announced in a speech at the United Nations last month that China aims to reach a peak in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and will achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2060, which means it will not will no longer be a net emitter of the main greenhouse. gas from human activity. Chinese scientists have argued that a peak in emissions may be possible by 2025.

China’s overall five-year goal summary released on Thursday did not set a year for a peak in emissions, but said after China’s peaks, it will see “a steady decline in carbon emissions.”

Over the next five years, the Central Committee said, China would “dramatically improve” energy and resource efficiency, while “the total volumes of major pollutants would be reduced sustainably.”

The Central Committee said the Chinese military – one of Xi’s top priorities since taking office in 2012 – has improved dramatically, even as it vowed to take even more “major measures. To strengthen the country’s security.

The committee did not detail any new programs, but called for “overall strengthening of military training and readiness.” Xi has returned to the theme several times in recent appearances with the People’s Liberation Army, as military tensions have risen from the Himalayas to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The committee also called for closer civil-military cohesion – under the ultimate authority of the Communist Party, of course. “There is a need to strengthen the national security system and capacity building to ensure national economic security, ensure the safety of people’s lives and maintain social stability and security,” he said.

Almost 70 years after Mao Zedong launched China’s first Five-Year Plan in 1953, these plans remain an important model that Chinese leaders use to define their aspirations for economic, social, and – nowadays – environmental progress.

As China has become more and more commercial, plans have become less important to parts of the economy. Yet they help set priorities, especially in areas like energy policy and large infrastructure projects where the state dominates investment.

Xi has shown how important these plans are to him by resuming the drafting process, a job traditionally left to the prime minister. Earlier this month, the party released rules that strengthen Mr. Xi’s power to set the political agenda. The rules seemed designed to avoid dissent over issues such as the direction of the economy, said Holly Snape, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Glasgow who studies Chinese politics.

“This goes right to the heart of how the next five years will play out,” she said via email.

The Central Committee meeting also discussed the goals of modernizing China by 2035. Some analysts have interpreted the date as a sign of how long Xi intends to stay in power, after removing his term limits. as a leader.

Ms Snape noted, however, that these long-term goals are not without precedent: Party officials approved a long-term plan in 1995, when Jiang Zemin was in charge, setting goals until 2010. Mr. Jiang resigned from his last official ceremony. post in 2004.

Meetings like this week’s are not a time when leaders typically issue detailed statements on international affairs. It is therefore not surprising that the leaders did not comment on the elections in the United States or on other matters beyond the Chinese borders.

Yet the plans hinge on their assessment of international perspectives, which they summed up in opaque sentences. The latter highlighted the risks of growing uncertainty, echoing Xi’s recent warnings that “the world has entered a time of turmoil and transformation.”

“Currently, the world is undergoing a major transformation of the genre that has not been seen for a century,” said the Central Committee. “The international balance of power is undergoing a profound adjustment.”

He warned: “Instability and uncertainty have clearly increased.”

Amber Wang contributed to the research in Beijing.

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