CGTN Explains: How China steers its economy through Five-Year Plans
Updated 09:43, 24-Oct-2020
By Yang Jing


With the year of 2020 drawing to an end under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, China is preparing for its new Five-Year Plan for 2021-2025, its 14th blueprint to guide the world's second largest economy in the next five years.

What is a 'Five-Year Plan'?

The Five-Year Plans (FYPs), also known as five-year plans for economic and social development, are a set of social and economic development initiatives that map out the country's strategies and goals for growth in a five-year period.

For each FYP, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) discuss and unveil the outline, which will then be tabled for review and approval by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

Starting from 1953, China has made 13 FYPs, going through the country's development path from barely having any industries other than farming to the world's second largest economy.

China established a basic industrial system in the first FYP. After the 7th FYP, people no longer suffered from shortages of food and clothing.

During the 11th FYP, China was classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle-income countries, part of a group of economies with a gross national income per capita between about $4,000 and $12,000.

With China becoming a much more market-oriented economy, the official name for the 11th FYP (2006-2010), changed from "five-year plan" to "five-year guideline." 

Although the English translation remains same in most cases, there are actual changes for the program.

Since the 11th FYP, China has emphasized more on deciding development direction instead of setting obligatory targets, and made strategies involving society and enterprises together with government, Li Yong, a senior fellow with the China Association of International Trade, told CGTN on October 20.

Even though there are still some quantitative goals, they are not compulsory and it is common that the actual figures are different from them, Li said.

What has the 13th five-year plan achieved?

The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), the first FYP under the leadership of the CPC with Xi Jinping as the core, remarks a juncture where CPC's first centennial.

With the CPC and the People's Republic of China being established in 1921 and 1949 respectively, the CPC set goals to be met by 2021 and 2049 to mark the 100th anniversaries of these two important dates.

The first centennial goal by 2021 is to "build a moderately prosperous society in all respects", which means to ensure the country's development improves the lives of all its people, particularly those in poverty.

Although China's economy has been under downward pressure and faced an unfavorable outside environment in the past several years, most of China's objectives of the 13th FYP will likely to be achieved by the end of 2020, except GDP growth and household income growth which were hit of the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to what is listed in the above table, China also made improvements in its business environment and economy structure reform.

China's ranking in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 study climbed to 31st place, up from 84th in 2016.

By 2019, the service industry accounted for 53.9 percent of the total GDP, 3.4 percentage points higher than the figure in 2015.

However, harder tasks remain for China to tackle, including structural woes and uncertainty brought by China-U.S. tension.

For instance, China's land and residency systems have been key obstacles to its urbanization and building a consumer-driven economy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, pledged to take more measures to break down "deep-seated institutional barriers" at a meeting on August 24 in Beijing with experts discussing topics related to the next five-year plan.