Numbers matter, but more do real benefits for people
Huang Jiyuan

Editor's note: The 2023 Two Sessions takes place at an important junction. It's the first Two Sessions after the Communist Party of China's 20th National Congress. It's the first Two Sessions after major changes were made to China's COVID-19 pandemic management measures. How to interpret this crucial event and its results? Follow Huang Jiyuan, the reporter who's reporting on the Two Sessions from the frontline for the first time, to get a firsthand look at the 2023 Two Sessions.

During the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress on March 5, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered the government work report and said China has set a GDP growth target of around 5 percent for 2023.

How should we interpret this number? From the foreign media's reporting, people are hearing a negative depiction of China's economy.

The number is critical, but it's equally important to see beyond that single number. China has pursued high-quality development and it can be hard to summarize all of the "quality" factors into a single number. Look at the patent registrations, efforts to combat climate change, the 5G technology, food security and many other areas. Hence, observers would discover a Chinese economy that is robust and placing quality as equal importance as quantity.

Full video transcript:

Hey, I'm here in the Great Hall of the People and today let's talk about the economy. When you think of a country's economy, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Perhaps, it's the GDP. And I bet many who are watching the Two Sessions share this feeling with me that, that the GDP target, that figure in the Government Work Report, is the item that we want to know.

Now, we have that figure for 2023: around 5 percent.

There are factors that people need to be aware of when talking about GDP target: First, it's the actual mathematical estimation of a country's economic change; Second, it projects an image. It lets the world knows whether the country's doing good or not, how is its market.

People sometimes focus too much on the second one. And believe me, there are more than enough ways to paint a bleak image of an economy in any condition, good or bad.

So to understand it, let's pull back a bit. In 2020, China's GDP grew by 2.3 percent. In 2021, it was 8.4 percent. 2022, 3 percent. Those were abnormal years. So, you get the big fluctuations. If you add that up and average it out, you'd find a 4.6 percent average growth rate. Not at all a bad figure compared to most other major economies during the same period.

Based on China's past figures and its onward trend, but also with the gloomy global situation, 5 percent is a pretty reasonable target, isn't it? What we need to see is that, yes, China is still setting a numerical value and that's very important, but we are more about quality than quantity now.

How do you measure quality? There are a lot of ways but it's hard to summarize everything into a single number. Take patents for example, in 2022, China had registered more than 4.2 million valid invention patents. It's the first country to pass the 3-million-threshold. And about 1.3 million of them were high-value patents, that increased by 24.2.

Innovation is the primary driving force for development, right? Who does development benefit? Me? You? Others here? It's the general public, it's everybody.

Then, if we look at the climate. In 2021, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP dropped by 34.4 percent from 2020. And in 2022, it further reduced 2.26 billion tons of domestic carbon dioxide emissions. That's also an increase in quality, isn’t it?

China has the world's largest 5G network. Its 5G users account for 80 percent of the world's total. That's also a quality, given that we basically live on our smartphones these days. I mean, case in point, I'm filming this now and I can just send it out right after I hit the end button because the internet is god and the connection is perfect!

And then there are other issues like food security, for example. China's grain production has stabilized at more than 1.3 trillion jin for seven consecutive years and it aims to keep at that level for 2023. No one can say that food is not part of the economy and, especially in today's world, food security is more crucial than ever.

That's how you should look at the Chinese economy these days. GDP target is very important. It's a numerical value that you can easily compare and contrast. But the economy is about a whole lot more, and a broader look gives you a more accurate picture of it.

Huang in Two Sessions Episode One: On the road

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