Beijing’s Plenary Session Makes Plenty of Promises, Offers No Real Solutions

November 6, 2020 Updated: November 17, 2020


The Chinese Communist Party’s closed-door Fifth Plenary Session has ended. Party leader Xi Jinping delivered a work report before Party elites, explaining the leadership’s proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–2025) and future targets for 2035.

The communique didn’t outline personnel changes, appoint a successor, or set plans for coping with current domestic and international challenges. Instead, it was filled with the same old Party slogans.

State-run broadcaster CCTV aired nearly a half-hour of Xi’s address to the 198 members and 166 alternate members of the Central Committee that are the so-called representatives of the Chinese people and ethnic groups. Expressionless, they listened to the lecture by Xi and raised their hands in agreement when required.

The International Situation 

A country’s mid- and long-term political and economic planning should be based on accurate judgment of domestic and international conditions. Is the international situation that China faces today the same as it was five years ago?

The plenary session’s communique states that the Chinese regime faces “profound and complex changes.”

“The international environment is becoming increasingly complex, and instability and uncertainty have increased significantly,” the statement notes. “But we still have a strategic opportunity.”

Five years ago, when the 13th Five-Year Plan was formulated, the CCP described the international situation as “factors causing instability and uncertainty in China’s external environment growing markedly, [with] greater risks and challenges.” It also said that the regime “still had a strategic opportunity” to combat those challenges.

Carrying a similar tone to five years ago, it sounds as if the CCP’s bureaucrats copied and pasted from the last communique.

The CCP cadres are reluctant to admit that the world is decoupling from the CCP, saying the Party is in a period of “important strategic opportunity,” without explaining what those opportunities are.

It’s indeed the communist mentality that refuses to face reality and recognize its faults but insists on saving face with the slogan, “important strategic opportunity.”

U.S. officials have been clear in distinguishing the Chinese communist regime from the Chinese people. It recently closed down the Chinese Consulate in Houston because of espionage concerns. These actions all lead to the fact that denouncing the CCP and its regime is only a matter of time and timing. Other countries that are experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic are also following suit, and the day when the Chinese communist regime will be held accountable is getting closer.

The top CCP leaders are aware of all these crises and they know that there are no opportunities left. But the main reason they dare not explain all this is that they fear the Chinese people will question the CCP’s legitimacy.

China’s Present Domestic Situation

Is China’s present domestic situation still the same as it was five years ago?

The new communique claims that China’s “long-term economic growth has moved forward, [with] a strong material foundation, a broad market space, strong development resilience, and stable overall societal situation.”

Five years ago, in the 13th Five-Year Plan: “On the domestic front, the fundamentals for long-term economic growth have not changed, and economic development prospects are as vast as ever. … With the structure of consumption being more rapidly upgraded, broad market space, a strong material foundation, a complete industrial structure, an ample supply of funds, and abundant human capital, along with the cumulative effects of innovation that are beginning to show, our overall strengths are still notable.”

The CCP’s assessment of its economic outlook is still the same as five years ago, except that most of the optimistic evaluations have been removed, especially “the structure of consumption being more rapidly upgraded” and “new areas of growth” are eliminated this time.

The cruel reality is that today, five years later, Chinese people aren’t able to consume at the same level, and there is massive unemployment.

The current social situation is extremely unstable, and it’s impossible to see what advantages and conditions China has for economic development as countries seek to disengage with it. The CCP’s slogans, such as “long-term economic growth has moved forward,” are almost ironic. They can only be seen as reflecting the external situation’s effects on the deteriorating internal situation.

In essence, this highlights the real crisis facing the Chinese communist regime.

Five years ago, the 13th Five-Year Plan listed more than 30 specific issues related to the problem described as: “China’s development model is inefficient, uneven, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.”

Five years later, the prominent problems were deleted and have been replaced with simple descriptions.

“The uneven and inadequate problems are still outstanding. … The ability to innovate does not meet the requirements of high-quality development, the agricultural foundation is not stable, the gap between urban and rural regional development and income distribution is relatively large, ecological and environmental protection still has a long way to go, the protection of people’s livelihoods is lacking, and social governance has weaknesses.”

There are too many problems to be resolved, and the fifth plenary session didn’t address how to do so. Unemployment, a key issue, was totally ignored. Instead, the communique simply wrapped up with statements such as, “Open up a new path in the changing situation.”

It’s obvious that maintaining political power is on the minds of the Party’s top leaders.

Illusory Goal of 14th Five-Year Plan

Rather than setting long-term goals, what China’s economy needs right now are short- and medium-term recovery plans, especially to retain the supply chain as much as possible, increase development of the private sector, completely abandon the planned economy, and solve the unemployment problem as soon as possible.

However, the CCP won’t acknowledge the current economic decline or abandon the planned economy, and won’t concede that it is being isolated on the world stage. It’s even impossible for the Party to recognize that it’s the root cause of internal and external crises. So, the plenary meeting avoided coming up with an economic recovery plan and instead put forward a far-reaching goal with a 2035 target.

In 2015, the 13th Five-Year Plan stated that the CCP’s goal was to “build a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”

But that has failed—as with the seven main objectives the CCP outlined in the plan.

Five years later, the 14th plan still covers the same objectives with a few more additions, such as to significantly enhance “the ability to respond to public emergencies, defend against natural disasters, and modernize national defense and the military.”

The additions indirectly address the pandemic and severe flooding in China this year. And the CCP clearly sees advancing military technology as important to its survival.

The CCP will insist that its 13th Five-Year Plan is complete; most Chinese people wouldn’t share that opinion.

It’s noteworthy that relations with Taiwan were mentioned at the end of the communique under the heading, “Promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.” That’s in contrast to Xi’s tough talk during the Korean War commemoration event, and the CCP’s frequent military harassment in the Taiwan Strait.

“A war must be fought to deter invasion, and violence must be met by violence,”  Xi said in his commemoration speech. “Victory is needed to win peace and respect. China will never cower before threats, or be subdued by suppression.”

The CCP’s slogan-led governance has nothing of relevance to the people’s livelihoods, and the communique offers nothing more than familiar lies. It’s just false hope to sustain its criminal dictatorship.

Zhong Yuan is a political commentator for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.