2023 Two Sessions: Looking Back & Looking Forward
Updated 13:45, 08-Mar-2023

I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here's what I'm watching: How the 2023 National People's Congress, the NPC, China's highest body of state power, looks back to review and report, and looks ahead to formulate and implement. While this is an annual event, it has special significance this year, setting in motion policies and programs of the 20th CPC National Congress, which provides the blueprint for the next 25 plus years. As President Xi Jinping states, "to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization."

In looking back, Premier Li Keqiang, in government work report to the NPC, called for prioritizing reasonable long-term economic growth by pursuing better quality and efficiency while ensuring social stability. Li noted economic headwinds of high unemployment, sluggish consumption, and a precipitous drop in revenue from land sales.

For the most eagerly awaited number, Li announced an economic growth target of around five percent for 2023, which is toward the conservative side of expectations, but higher than the three percent of COVID-stressed 2022.

In looking forward, President Xi stressed that high-quality development is the first and foremost task in building a modern socialist country. Attending a deliberation session with delegates from Jiangsu Province, President Xi called for applying the new development philosophy, upgrading economic quality as well as expanding quantity, deepening reform and opening up, and transforming the development model via the formation of sustainable institutions and mechanisms for high-quality development.

While Xi covered all aspects of implementing the vision of the 20th CPC National Congress such as agricultural modernization, building a beautiful and harmonious countryside, and enhancing healthcare, he prioritized strong science and technology, greater self-reliance, and committed indigenous innovation. To open up new areas in development and foster new growth drivers in face of fierce international competition, Xi emphasized that China can rely ultimately only on innovation in science and technology.

Building self-reliance and strength in science and technology is key, Xi reiterated, and he called for cooperation between industries, universities and research institutes; supporting top scientists to lead original, pioneering and breakthrough research; and building industrial science and technology innovation centers with global influence.

Xi highlighted the big vision that the happiness and well-being of the people, advancing common prosperity, and building high-quality lives, are the ultimate goals of promoting high-quality development. He said that China's development must serve to strengthen the people's sense of fulfillment, happiness and security.

And that the way to advance high-quality development, Xi stressed, as he does repeatedly, is to uphold and strengthen the Party's overall leadership and to ensure the Party's full and rigorous self-governance.

Looking back and looking forward is always the framework for annual NPC sessions, but this year, it is a milestone on China's intended march to great rejuvenation. In doing so, it heralds a new slate of government leaders: premier, vice premiers, ministers, charged with the Herculean task of making it real.

Their challenges, domestic and international, are no state secret.

I'm keeping watch. I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn.


Script: Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Editors: Yang Yutong, Duan Jiaxin

Designer: Qi Haiming

Producer: Wang Ying

Chief editor: Li Shouen

Supervisors: Ge Jing, Adam Zhu

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