Due to the US sanctions and the global corona recession, China is focusing more on its own strengths. At the end of its session, the People’s Congress also tightened control over Hong Kong.
Beijing (AP) – China wants to become more independent from the rest of the world. At the end of its annual meeting, the People’s Congress in Beijing set the course on Thursday with the new five-year plan to make the second-largest economy more independent.
The government wants to boost domestic demand and massively increase investment in research and development by more than seven percent per year. This is intended to reduce the technological dependence on foreign countries. The strategy is in response to supply chain disruption caused by US sanctions against Chinese technology companies and the global recession triggered by the corona pandemic.
The nearly 300 delegates in the Great Hall of the People also strengthened Beijing’s hold on Hong Kong. With 2,895 votes in favor and only one abstention, they approved a controversial electoral change in China’s Special Administrative Region. This is to ensure that Hong Kong is only run by “patriots”. The reform will further curtail already limited democracy in the former British Crown Colony. The influence of the pro-democracy opposition must be suppressed. The project has met with sharp criticism in Hong Kong and internationally.
With Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s work report, MPs also approved the growth target of “more than six percent” for this year at the end of their week-long session. With strict measures such as curfew, quarantine, mass testing, contact tracking and entry restrictions, China has largely brought the corona virus under control. Daily life and economic activity have long since returned to normal. The Monetary Fund even expects growth of 8.1 percent in China this year.
Against the backdrop of mounting tensions with the US, India, Taiwan and neighboring countries in the East China and South China Seas, defense spending will again increase sharply by 6.8 percent. China’s head of state and party, Xi Jinping, called on the military to “be ready to fight” to defend the country’s “national sovereignty, security and development interests.” He also called for a “high-profile strategic deterrent”. The military budget is again growing faster than the total budget expenditure.
The budget deficit, at 3.2 percent of economic output, is again above the 3 percent limit, which is generally regarded as critical. Last year, the deficit had already widened to 3.6 percent due to the enormous expenditure to stimulate the economy after the temporary slump caused by the corona pandemic. The new five-year plan for 2021 to 2025 and the long-term goals to 2035 were approved by 2,873 votes – with just 11 votes against and 12 abstentions.
The budget with the substantial increase in the military budget was approved by 2,843 votes. Only 36 MPs voted against, 17 abstained. In addition, all government work reports were approved as expected. In its history, parliament, which was not freely elected, has never rejected a government proposal anyway.
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