Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a statement on Saturday titled 'Issues on National Medium and Long-Term Social and Economic Strategies.' Photo: AFP

The stakes were high at the Chinese Communist Party’s fifth annual session of the Central Committee, where for four days senior cadres deliberated and reportedly approved draft policies for the next five years.

The session ended today (October 29) but the Chinese public will not be able to browse the full text of the all-encompassing 2025 roadmap any time soon.

The Five-Year Plan, reportedly replete with a suite of policies and economic and social development goals, is still pending pro forma scrutiny and final promulgation by the Chinese parliament at its annual session next spring. 

But a renowned scholar believed to be among President Xi Jinping’s top advisors has hinted about Beijing’s view of the nation’s economic outlook for the next five years. 

Justin Lin, aka Lin Yifu, head of the Peking University’s (PKU) National School of Development, told a forum in Beijing on Wednesday that the economy could ride out the geopolitical headwinds and keep expanding at 6-8% annually for the next ten years. 

Lin, a former deputy governor at the World Bank, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that China had turned the corner in its fight against Covid-19 and amid the current testing times may take an unassailable lead over major Western economies in terms of economic recovery and in nurturing emerging new high-tech industries.

He said China was well-poised to press its advantages as one of the world’s largest markets with well-rounded, full-stack supply chains. 

In August, Lin was invited for a seminar presided over by Xi at Zhongnanhai, where the top leader sought policy recommendations from respected academics for the 14th Five-Year Plan’s drafting. 

Peking University professor Justin Lin is believed to be among President Xi’s top economic advisors. Photo: People’s Daily

“Lin’s policy proposals featured predominantly in previous five-year plans as well as in annual work reports of the central government. He was indeed the first scholar to speak during the August meeting convened by Xi,” a professor at the PKU’s School of Governance told Asia Times on the condition of anonymity. 

“Lin’s upbeat take on the health and prospects of the Chinese economy may mean a positive tenor of the upcoming plan for 2025, which may lay down an annual GDP growth target of around 6% between 2021 and 2025,” the PKU professor said.

Li Junru, a deputy director of the Central Party School which grooms senior party cadres, told China News Service that the goals contained in the new plan, as well as its implementation guidelines, could determine if China has a head start in its new “Long March” toward realizing Xi’s visions and ideals by 2035. 

The official communique of the just-concluded plenum revealed that Xi had also teased the 400 attendees with his expectations for the next 15 years, though the document did not specify the leader’s aspirations. It is widely rumored, however, that Beijing aims to leapfrog the US in gross domestic product (GDP) and economic power by 2035. 

A Bloomberg analysis suggested that Beijing’s GDP goal of surpassing the US in annual economic output could be achieved in five years.

Li said the next five years would hold the key to how quickly the party could bring Xi’s 2035 vision and his “superpower China” ambitions into reality.

Xi earlier scrapped the Chinese constitution’s two-term, ten-year limit on the presidency and as the chief secretary of the Communist Party he is not subject to any cap on his years in power. Some suspect he will remain in office for ten to 15 years, well into the 2030s.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects a container port in Ningbo, one of the world’s largest maritime freight logistic hubs. Photo: Xinhua

Others are more skeptical of the five-year plan’s broad ambitions. 

Johnny Lau, a Hong Kong-based current affairs commentator who has covered Chinese politics for decades, noted in a recent column that the latest Five-Year Plan could be the most consequential one since Beijing started setting out five-year development goals in the 1950s. 

“The geopolitical context of the new national plan is significantly worse, compared with the situation back in 2015, when Beijing still enjoyed amicable ties with the United States under Barack Obama,” Lau said.

“The new plan has to take into account and reflect the shifting and deteriorating world order and adjust – basically lower – original growth goals amid the current crunch time.  

“Xi’s main rubric for discussion at the plenum, other than deciding on the plan, could be about how to grapple meaningfully with the US-led containment in the next five years and, while contending with the challenges, turn the adversity into an opportunity to whip up more nationalism among the masses and thus entrench the party’s rule.”

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