Arrival at the Great Hall of the People for the “Two Sessions”, 5 March 2021 [Xinhua]
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Between 4-11 March, the “Two Sessions” (Lianghui) took place in Beijing — the biggest annual political event in China. The legislative National People’s Congress (NPC) and the advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CCPPC) gathered 5,000 political and social leaders to make proposals and discuss the country’s direction.
Learn more about the “Two Sessions” here and find a summary of the main topics discussed this year, here.
Accordingly, we dedicate a good part of this week’s News from China on the country’s strategic debates, which begins the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), amid huge geopolitical tensions.
—Dongsheng Editorial Collective
P.S. Read News on China: Africa Weekly in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
China expects 6% growth in 2021, while relying more on industry and household consumption than financial and real estate sectors
Measures to increase consumption include raising incomes, lowering spending on housing (8%-13% of household income, 2002-18) and expanding domestic consumer goods industry (food, pharmaceuticals, cars, tourism, culture, etc.)
China is the largest industrial power by value (US $4.8 trillion, 30% of global total), but lags behind level of US and Germany, says ex-minister
Major limits are foreign technological dependence, weaknesses in key sectors, and manufacturing’s premature declined share of GDP (37.8%, 2020); country will increase R&D investment 7% annually to US $580 billion (2025)
China’s defense budget (US $209 billion) maintains steady growth, with an increase of 6.8% for 2021
Chinese military spending accounts for 1.22% of GDP, lower than the global average (2.6%), its neighbors Russia and India, and the US (3.4%), with a budget (US $740.5 billion) more than three times China’s
National People’s Congress votes for Hong Kong electoral reform to safeguard “one country, two systems” and develop democratic system
To protect national sovereignty, Election Committee for electing the city’s leader will expand from 1,200 to 1,500 members, adding a fifth sector of 300 Hong Kong deputies to top national legislative (NPC) and advisory (CPPCC) political bodies
57-year history of Chinese medical exchanges and support in Africa refutes accusations of “vaccine diplomacy,” according to Washington Post
21,000 Chinese doctors have treated 220 million patients in 48 countries and 130 medical facilities were built with Chinese assistance (1963-2018), playing a major role in the fight against malaria, Ebola and Covid-19
In January-February, China’s foreign trade (US $834.5 billion) surged 41.2% year-on-year due to strong foreign demand and fiscal policies
Even with low comparison base (a year since pandemic in China), numbers are still high – trade with USA (+81.3%, US $109.8 billion), ASEAN (+41.9%, US $120.5 billion) and EU (+49.6%, US $119.6 billion)
Agriculture and Environment
China invests US $13.3 billion in creating high standard farmland (5.59 million ha) and irrigation systems (1.6 million ha)
“High standard” is defined as flat and contiguous arable land with complete agricultural facilities, reliable electricity supply, ecological protection, disaster resistance, and high and stable yields in floods or droughts
China seeks self-sufficiency in genetic technology, seed supply, and livestock breeding to reduce high import dependence
Country’s corn and soybean (non-GMO) production is half of the US’s (GMO) and 70% of pigs are foreign breeds; new national and world’s largest bank for germplasm – “chips of agriculture” – starts operating this year
People’s Life and Culture
Mental health awareness and services increase in China but remain far from meeting country’s needs
Rehabilitation “clubhouses” and national “686 Program” (2003) to expand basic mental health care are a start for country where 2/3 of counties lack access (2015), 57% of 16 million Chinese with serious illnesses are poor (2014) and families are primary caregivers
In the 1950s, government created urban working class “cultural palaces”, which declined with 1990s market reforms
During early socialist period, feudal and colonial spaces were reappropriated to provide political, cultural and technical education for workers; leisure time and accessible spaces have become rare for today’s workers, while culture becomes increasingly commercialized and digitalized
China’s Mao-era cultural “palaces” for workers [Sixth Tone]