Beijing Lays Out Ambitions, Admits to Economic Challenges During Key Plenary Meeting

October 29, 2020 Updated: November 3, 2020

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) issued a 7,000-plus-word bulletin upon the conclusion of its most important political meeting of the year, in which it emphasized leader Xi Jinping’s “core” role and hinted at the enormity of China’s economic woes.

Known as the fifth plenary session, top Party officials convened to map out the country’s economic development, drafting a five-year plan and a new 15-year plan called Vision 2035.

The bulletin issued on Oct. 29 stated that Xi was “the core of the Party” and “takes the helm,” while noting the economic challenges ahead.

“We will surely be able to overcome the various difficulties and obstacles that appear on the road ahead, and we will surely be able to push forward into a new era of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics,’” the bulletin states.

China experts say that this is the Party admitting to the bad shape of the country’s economy.

The bulletin also revealed that 198 members and 166 alternate members of the CCP’s elite Central Committee participated in the meeting—meaning four members and two alternate members failed to show up. While Beijing didn’t offer an explanation for their absence, some observers speculate that since it’s very rare for officials to miss key meetings, they may have been dismissed from their positions.

Past Achievements?

The bulletin said the Party fought “three major battles” during the past five years. The concept was first introduced by Xi in October 2017, with the goals of preventing major financial risks, alleviating poverty, and reducing pollution.

But in recent years, high-risk ventures such as the peer-to-peer lending (P2P) industry, have boomed and collapsed, while the country’s largest real estate developers have accumulated massive debt. In September, state-run media reported that 76 of the biggest real estate developers would have to repay 2.5 trillion yuan (about $373.6 billion) over the next 12 months, including 177 billion yuan (about $2.64 billion) in interest.

Meanwhile, the CCP didn’t lay out concrete plans to reduce carbon emissions. The bulletin noted that the country hopes to develop more green technology and that “carbon emissions will decrease after it reaches a peak” sometime in the next 15 years.

Challenges

The bulletin also admitted that China currently lacked “key technologies and innovation capabilities”; that agricultural productivity needed to be improved; that the “international environment” was becoming tougher; and that the economic disparity between urban and rural remained stark.

To combat these challenges, the Party emphasized the need to become technologically “self-reliant” and expand domestic demand—by updating factories to have the capability to produce high-end goods.

Deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Chiu Chui-cheng said during a daily press conference in Taipei on Oct. 29 that this reflected the Chinese regime’s desire to overcome U.S. export restrictions due to increasing trade tensions. It also showed that “China’s unemployment rate is serious and the society has unstable factors,” he said.

He said it will be difficult for Beijing to increase consumption due to the unemployment rate and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambitions

In the bulletin, Beijing also said it would continue to develop its Belt and Road Initiative, a foreign policy project to invest in infrastructure projects around the world and build political influence. The initiative has been criticized by U.S. officials and experts for placing developing countries under massive debt.

“[China] will actively participate in the reform of the global economic governance system,” the bulletin said.

The CCP also said advancing military technology would be as important as economic development. It planned to invest more in developing weapons and intelligence.

“We must speed up the modernization of national defense and military troops,” the bulletin stated.

There were no details about the Vision 2035 plan, but China affairs commentators previously analyzed that it indicated Xi’s intention to head the Party at least until the year 2035.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of matured debt for China’s real estate developers. The Epoch Times regrets the error.