|Chinese Cities Struggle with|
China’s leaders unwrapped a new five-year economic blueprint on Saturday that set ambitious goals to raise ordinary people’s incomes, rein in pollution and energy use, and build advanced-science industries in fields like biotechnology and environmental protection.
After five years of scorching growth, averaging 11.2 percent a year, the plan projected an average 7 percent annual rise in the gross domestic product through 2015. The government also pledged a war on inflation, officially pegged at 4.9 percent in January but believed by experts to be considerably higher.
The moves are crucial to shifting China’s economic base away from factory exports toward one rooted in demand for goods and services by increasingly affluent consumers. And that is crucial to the Communist Party’s central aim: keeping the allegiance of a society that wants a bigger share of the nation’s prosperity.
The new plan was the centerpiece of an annual report on the government’s work that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao presented on Saturday to the National People’s Congress, China’s quasi-legislature. Past reports have set broadly similar targets for China’s development, which the report frankly acknowledged had not always been met.
“We are keenly aware that we still have a serious problem in that our development is not yet well-balanced, coordinated or sustainable,” the report said. Among the shortcomings it cited were a widening gap between the rich and poor, an “irrational industrial structure,” sharply rising land and housing prices, and illegal seizures of people’s land and the demolition of their homes by state-backed developers.
Some main economic goals may be especially hard to attain.
Mr. Wen set an 8 percent target for gross domestic product growth this year, implying slower growth in succeeding years. But many economists believe the economy will grow faster, just as growth in 2010 exceeded the government’s target. Soaring land and home prices have also proved difficult to curb.
But the report claimed impressive gains on other important fronts that are at the head of plans for the next five years, including a 19.1 percent cut in the amount of energy used per unit of economic growth, a rapidly expanding service economy and a boom in the high-technology sector. The government opened a national nanotechnology research center and is building 50 engineering centers, 32 national engineering laboratories and 56 other labs focusing on technologies like digital television and high-speed Internet, the report said.
Software sales, integrated circuit production and other advanced products like microcomputers all logged double-digit increases last year.
In the next five years, raising standards of living appears to be perhaps the government’s main priority.
The government pledged to keep prices “basically stable” through 2015, limiting inflation to 4 percent this year, and to raise household income by an annual average of 7 percent, roughly in line with economic growth.
That would break from the past 20 years, in which the growth of ordinary workers’ income has regularly lagged behind the growth in gross domestic product, and consumer spending as a share of the economy has dropped to a record low.
The report called expanding domestic demand “a long-term strategic principle” and pledged to increase subsidies to low-income households, extend broadband Internet to rural areas and smaller cities, and expand retail sectors like chain stores and online commerce.
Retail sales of consumer goods should grow 16 percent in 2011 alone, it stated.
Environmental protection, energy conservation and technology also are allotted ambitious goals: in technology, for example, laying a million kilometers, or 621,000 miles, of new fiber optic cable; and adding 35 million new broadband internet ports, to a total of 223 million; and drafting a plan to support emerging high-technology industries.
The report pledges to further reduce energy consumption per unit of G.D.P. by 16 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions per unit by 17 percent. And for the first time, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, the government will place a cap on total energy use, limiting consumption to the equivalent of four billion tons of coal by 2015.
The government also promised to build “well-equipped statistical and monitoring systems” to gauge greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate construction of sewage treatment plants, retrofit coal-fired power plants with pollution controls and continue a pilot program to develop low-carbon cities.
China’s military spending will rise 12.6 percent in 2011 to 583.6 billion renminbi, or about $88.6 billion, a separate Finance Ministry report stated on Saturday, slightly less than the 12.7 percent increase announced on Friday by a legislative spokesman.
That resumes a long string of double-digit annual increases in military spending that was interrupted in 2010, when spending rose only 7.5 percent, perhaps, analysts said, because money was diverted to address the global economic crisis.
Since 1989, the budget has risen by an average of 12.9 percent per year, according to GlobalSecurity.org, a private organization that maintains an online database of military-related information. Many analysts, including those in the Pentagon, say that China’s actual military spending is probably considerably greater than the reported sums.
The resumption of rapid growth follows a year in which China’s neighbors have expressed concern about the military’s increasingly muscular behavior in waters off its Pacific coast and along the tense border with India. But the spokesman, Li Zhaoxing, repeated China’s longstanding position that the military is a defensive force and that it “will not pose a threat to any country.”
Mr. Wen’s annual report, like those before it, offered a sheaf of paeans to the Communist Party’s stewardship of the nation, with staggering statistics to support them. China’s international prestige “grew significantly”; its “brilliant achievements” in economics “clearly show the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The state opened 4,986 kilometers, or 3,100 miles, or new railroads and 120,000 kilometers, or nearly 74,600 miles, of highways; completed 230,000 sports and fitness projects for rural residents; built or renovated 891 hospitals and 1,228 health clinics.
And while Western economies still struggle to recover from the 2008 global economic collapse, China has moved on. “All the measures we took,” Mr. Wen’s report said, “have proven to be entirely correct.”