State media gives account of how China’s mask-wearing leaders drew up five-year plan

Jane Cai
·3-min read

The ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece has given an account of how its leaders, all wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, put together China’s new five-year plan to 2025 in consultation with retired elders, experts and others.

A report published by news agency Xinhua on Wednesday said President Xi Jinping began steering the drafting process in April as the public health crisis was easing in China, and just after the lockdown of Wuhan – the central city where the first cases were detected late last year – was lifted.

“It was on April 13, less than a week after China ended Wuhan’s lockdown, when General Secretary Xi Jinping chaired the first plenary meeting of the drafting team in Beijing and provided guidance,” said the report, which was released as the world waited for the US presidential election results.

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China’s five-year plans for social and economic development have come a long way since they first began in 1953.

The 14th plan, from 2021 to 2025, is expected to see Xi, “the core navigator and helmsman”, leading China through perilous waters amid external antagonism, according to a communique released after the blueprint was adopted at a meeting of the party’s Central Committee last week.

Xi Jinping told the drafting team in April that China should “seize the opportunities” and “explore new areas of development”. Photo: Xinhua
Xi Jinping told the drafting team in April that China should “seize the opportunities” and “explore new areas of development”. Photo: Xinhua

According to Xinhua, Xi told the April meeting that China should aim to “seize the opportunities”, “withstand all kinds of challenges” and “explore new areas of development” in drawing up the plan.

He also said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in disease control and prevention as well as in the public health system in China.

The drafting process took about 200 days and in that time Xi chaired dozens of meetings and seminars with the team drawing up the plan, as well as retired elders, experts, entrepreneurs and non-party members to get their opinions and suggestions, the report said.

“Those of us on the drafting team discussed the plan every day, all of us wearing face masks,” one person involved in the process told Xinhua. “It was an unprecedented scene.”

The president’s name was mentioned 63 times in the report, an apparent effort by party propagandists to highlight Xi’s authority and control.

The five-year plan does not set an economic growth target for China, instead stressing the importance of quality growth and optimising the country’s economic structure. It puts the focus on boosting technological innovation, upgrading industries and supply chains, and developing the domestic market to drive growth – but at the same time embracing international business and trade. In uncertain times, party cadres are also urged to pay more attention to risks and national security.

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