China has sent a clear signal that it will put quality and efficiency of growth first as it enters a new development era.
Since the reform and opening up, the Chinese economy has expanded much faster than the rest of the world, partly due to China’s three-step development strategy aiming to quadruple the 1980 gross national output by the end of the 20th century.
On its path to becoming a modernized country, China had also set targets to double its economic size in the first two decades of this century.
The targets contributed to the brisk growth of past decades and helped China become the world’s second largest economy.
But in the report delivered to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, there was no such target. China has entered a “new era,” and from here on things are different. “This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” the report said.
“China’s economy has been transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development,” it said. This shows that China will prioritize the quality of development rather than fast economic expansion.
The attitude is in line with the central leadership’s judgment in 2014 that China’s economy had entered a “new normal,” featuring medium-high growth rather than fast growth, upgrading of economic structure and innovation.
China’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 9.8 percent between 1979 and 2012, dwarfing the global growth of 2.8 percent in the same period. However, the fast growth was accompanied by excessive use of resources, environmental pollution and overcapacity.
Since 2012, the country has showed greater tolerance of lower growth rates in the pursuit of a better structure, quality and efficiency. It lowered the annual GDP growth target from 7.5 percent for 2012-2014 to 6.5 percent this year.
Average annual growth between 2013 and 2016 slowed to 7.2 percent, still much higher than 2.6-percent average global growth and the 4-percent growth of developing economies.
Stepping into the new era, China’s principal contradiction is between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life, according to the report.
No mention of any target to double GDP will ensure the country can focus on implementing its new development concepts of innovation, coordination, greening, opening up and inclusiveness.
Although economic growth at certain level will still be necessary, freeing itself from any speed constraint will make it easier for China to balance its development goals.
Socialist modernization will be “basically realized” from 2020 to 2035. From 2035 to the middle of the century, China will become a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful, according to the report.
With more focus on quality and efficiency than on speed, China will march toward those goals and bring about happiness to the people, and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.