The 12th National People's Congress starts its fifth session on March 5 in Beijing (XINHUA)
At the opening of this year's session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang delivered the Report on the Work of the Government to some 2,900 national legislators, joined by members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The report reviews the work done in 2016 and outlines plans for this year. Beijing Review reporters Lan Xinzhen, Cui Xiaoqin, Bai Shi, Li Nan and Ma Li spoke to NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members to hear their suggestions on how to achieve the national development targets. Edited excerpts follow:
Li Yining, CPPCC National Committee member and renowned economist:
The government work report sets [this year's] GDP growth target at around 6.5 percent, adding that we will strive to achieve better results.
Efficiency is the most important thing in economics, and it rests on two foundations. The first foundation is materials and technology, such as the number of factories, equipment, the quantity and quality of raw materials and the quality of the labor force. Materials and technology are the guarantee for normal growth.
But efficiency has another foundation, that is, the moral basis. For example, people's sense of identity is a huge force. People's feeling of being in the same boat means cohesion and a common sense of crisis. Moral power is important for it can yield unexpected results, which has been demonstrated in previous efforts to prevent and control natural disasters. Whether we can achieve an economic growth rate higher than 6.5 percent depends on whether we can make breakthroughs in the efficiency foundations.
The good news is that with the 19th CPC National Congress to be convened, people all over the country are making contributions for its success, which suggests that the economic growth rate might exceed 6.5 percent and we might make more economic achievements.
China is in a transitional period, shifting from the previous development model oriented toward speed and quantity to a model oriented toward efficiency and quality. So our structural reform is ongoing. Our national conditions require us to carry out constant transformation and continuous reform to attain a new position.
President Xi Jinping joins a panel discussion with deputies to the 12th NPC from Shanghai at the annual session of the NPC in Beijing on March 5 (XINHUA)
Major General Chen Zhou, NPC deputy and senior researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences, People's Liberation Army:
The increase in defense spending is compatible with our economic conditions and national defense requirements and is very appropriate and reasonable.
The defense budget will be used to support national defense and military reforms as well as military equipment upgrading. A large proportion will go to improving training and living conditions of local-level troops and cultivating high-caliber military officers. The spending will also be used to support the integration of military and civilian [technologies].
China's military was traditionally land-based, human-intensive and defensive in nature. It needs to strengthen other aspects of the army in the context of enhancing military reform, the changing security situation at home, and evolving forms of war. The navy, air force, strategic and tactical missile force, and strategic support force should be overhauled by channeling defense spending toward them. Ground forces should be reduced and old and outdated defense equipment phased out.
China has launched structural reform in military leadership and the commanding mechanism and made breakthroughs. It will now reform the scale and structure of military forces, trimming the number of army troops and strengthening the navy, air force and strategic forces.
The aircraft carrier project is a landmark in the navy's development. Aircraft carrier Liaoning has achieved good results in tests and training. Construction of a second aircraft carrier is progressing smoothly. The number of Chinese aircraft carrier fleets will be determined according to national and military strategies. However, one thing is certain: we will not build 12-aircraft carrier fleets as the United States has. Our defense policy is defensive.
China's growing global status and influence requires it to shoulder more international responsibilities and obligations, and the military is indispensable for doing this. China has taken part in UN peacekeeping operations since 1990 and has 35,000 peacekeeping soldiers at present. China has also taken part in security cooperation in anti-terrorism work and humanitarian aid. The Chinese military will better discharge its international obligations to make a greater contribution to world peace and development.
As China develops, its overseas interests are growing. More than 100 million Chinese travel abroad every year, and more than 30,000 Chinese companies are scattered all over the world. Security problems are becoming more salient, so protecting overseas interests has become a mission of the military.
Zhang Yunling, CPPCC National Committee member and Director of International Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:
With globalization reaching a critical period, China should steer the world in the right direction. China's stable economic growth can be assured by opening up and improving the external environment.
With U.S. President Donald Trump taking office, the United Kingdom exiting the European Union, and extreme right-wing parties rising in Europe, protectionism is on the rise. Some countries have begun to restrict foreign goods and investment.
China is in the stage of economic transformation and industrial upgrading and Chinese enterprises are building global industrial networks. Changes in the international environment pose many challenges for China.
Since China's growth momentum comes primarily from within the country, it will continue to deepen reform. Last year, the GDP grew by an impressive 6.7 percent, achieved by adjusting the economic structure rather than developing traditional industries.
While deepening reform, it is still very important to maintain stable economic ties with the rest of the world. In the Government Work Report, Premier Li states that China will further its opening up.
First, we will continue to maintain the openness of the global market and the general trend of economic globalization.
Second, we will create a sound external environment. This year, China will continue to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other relevant countries to push forward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, implement the upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA), and negotiate with relevant countries to establish new FTAs.
Third, we will steadfastly push forward the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative). The initiative is not simply to open new markets but to construct a new model of international cooperation through joint efforts.
Domestic enterprises' participation in the initiative is conducive to industrial structure adjustment domestically. Through production capacity cooperation, China will help other countries to develop and establish economic ties with it.
The new cooperation model can overcome problems arising from the previous globalization model that stressed open markets. If a country has an open market but no road, electricity or other infrastructure, it will not be able to attract foreign investment. China seeks to promote common development through a new type of mutually beneficial cooperation, which is expected to improve the previous global economic globalization model.
Ye Xiaowen, Deputy Director of the Literature, History and Learning Committee of the CPPCC National Committee:
Some people have said the anti-corruption momentum is abating, which is groundless. I am a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. Every year at the [annual] session of the CPC Central Committee, there are fewer people around [with some having been punished for corruption].
In addition to the civilian sector, the military is rigorously fighting against corruption. Since the 18thCPC National Congress, more than 200 high-ranking officials, including national, ministerial and provincial leaders, have been arrested for corruption. This indicates that anti-corruption has become an overwhelming trend, and mechanisms that make people not dare to and not want to commit corruption have been formed.
Some people say the market economy gave rise to corruption, which is wrong. The market economy should be developed but as the ruling party, the CPC should know how to ensure that our leading cadres are honest and upright in a market economy.
Chen Xiwen, Deputy Director of the Committee for Economic Affairs of the CPPCC National Committee:
Agricultural supply-side structural reform started in 2015 and since then has achieved remarkable results. How is it related to the changes in demand for agricultural products?
First, new requirements on the demand side have compelled agriculture to undergo a supply-side structural reform. The supply side needs to meet the new demand for better, more diversified and safer agricultural products.
Second, supply-side structural reform is a type of structural adjustment. The variety and quantity of agricultural products should be adjusted according to market changes. For instance, soybean is in short supply, so it is necessary to take policy measures to encourage soybean production. Corn supply is in excess of demand, so measures should be taken to reduce its production. This is a type of structural adjustment.
More importantly, the major purpose of agricultural supply-side reform is to increase the comprehensive benefits of our agriculture and the international competitiveness of our agricultural products. In this sense, not only should the variety and quantity of agricultural products be adjusted, we should also change our development model and increase the international competitiveness and comprehensive benefits of agriculture.
To push forward the reform, the most important thing is to carry out innovation in two ways. First, promoting innovation in agricultural science and technology. New technology should be adopted, from seed breeding to plant cultivation and livestock feeding, as well as in subsequent product processing, storage and transportation to achieve higher efficiency.
Second, promoting innovation in the agricultural management system. Since China has a large population and relatively limited farmland, the overall scale of agricultural production is small, especially that of land-intensive products such as grain, cotton and oil crops. In the short term, the relatively small scale and low efficiency of China's agricultural production cannot be changed. However, this can be remedied to a certain extent through innovation in the agricultural management system.
Many people doubt whether small-scale household agricultural production has any potential to be tapped. The current situation shows that urbanization has led to a reduction of agricultural population, and land operating rights in rural areas are being transferred and getting more concentrated to augment the scale of production. In many places, although land operating rights have not been transferred, farmers can still enjoy the benefit of modern agricultural equipment and technology through land trusteeship and purchase of services.
From this perspective, agricultural supply-side structural reform is different from the structural adjustment we usually talk about. The former is aimed at improving the comprehensive benefits of agriculture and the international competitiveness of agricultural products. Agricultural supply-side structural reform is achieved through technological innovation and management system innovation.
Hou Xinyi, CPPCC National Committee member and Director of the Center of Modern Legal Study, Tianjin University of Finance and Economics:
Right after assuming office, the current government promised to delegate administrative examination and approval power. Three years later, the promise has been fulfilled and the goal exceeded. Nearly 37 percent of all items once subject to the administrative examination and approval of the Central Government have been delegated to lower-level governments for examination and approval.
To prevent delegated power from becoming recentralized, central government departments have been told to publish a list of their powers for public oversight. Another measure is transparency in government administration. The government is much more transparent and the Government Work Report said this year, government affairs will be more so, and violators will be held accountable.
However, while the government work report has responded to some legal issues of public concern, it has neglected some other issues. For instance, while the government is delegating power, it is also expanding its power in some aspects. Some local governments have infringed upon citizens' private lives on the pretext of cultivating Party work style and building a clean government.
Some nurses were punished for playing mahjong after work, and some teachers disciplined for dining together in restaurants during holidays, even though they paid out of their own pockets. In some places, public employees are forbidden to drink alcohol at home after work. This is not right as it tramples on the rule of law. Public power and citizens' rights should be clearly distinguished. The Central Government should pay close attention to such infringements [of citizens' rights].
Liu Baosheng, NPC deputy and Chairman of Fengfan Co. Ltd. under China Shipping Industrial Co. Ltd.:
The premier mentioned in his report that the foundation of our country's economy is the real economy and the report attaches great importance to the real economy. This is reflected in the following aspects：
First, tax reduction, which is a big bonus for companies, especially in the economic "new normal."
Second, supply-side reform. Supply-side reform is a step further from the transformation of the development model, structural adjustment and industrial upgrading. It is to let our industries get to the middle and high end of the value chain. After decades of reform and opening up, China has become the world's second largest economy. Following the 2008 global economic crisis and the slow recovery of the world economy, China's strategies are very targeted and effective. The extensive economic development that we started decades ago was achieved at the cost of resources and the environment. Supply-side reform is to adjust that model as soon as possible.
Last but not least, the report mentions economic drivers. In my understanding, emerging industries should be nurtured through innovation, while traditional industries need to be upgraded with big data, cloud computing and Internet technology. The key tasks for this year, reducing overcapacity, destocking, deleveraging, lowering cost and shoring up weak spots, will benefit the real economy.
Wang Heshan, NPC deputy and Vice Chairman of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region:
The government work report is people-oriented. It expresses the confidence, determination and aspirations of the people, and is unifying and inspiring. In the past year, China's major country diplomacy was fruitful and China became more vigorous and open. Ningxia is seizing the opportunity to open wider to the world so as to invigorate itself. We hope that the Central Government will help Ningxia to successfully host the Third China-Arab States Expo and build industrial parks overseas.
Yutso, NPC deputy and medical worker from Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province:
The government work report provides hope for better medical service in areas inhabited by Tibetans. It says a mechanism will be established to promote the flow of medical resources, strengthen service capabilities at the community level, and help ordinary people to consult doctors.
As a medical worker born and brought up in a remote countryside area and with over 40 years' working experience, what concerns me most are the medical problems of ordinary people and the working conditions of countryside medical workers.
Although the medical service level has improved in recent years, there are some severe diseases that can't be treated in local hospitals. It would be a blessing to have good medical services in community-level Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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