Expansion, control and stabilization: China lays out its future | DW Analysis
DW, 19 Mar 2021
The National People’s Congress or NPC is officially the highest organ of power in China. It's is where China’s future in the world is mapped out. With nearly 3,000 delegates, it meets annually to outline the superpower’s long term plans.
At the top of the agenda was changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system.
The semi-autonomous, partially democratic region has been a thorn in autocratic Beijing's side for a while.
Hong Kongers have long wanted an overhaul of their electoral laws, but in a direction opposite to what Beijing has imposed. For years, they have demanded universal suffrage, with huge rallies seen in 2019. Beijing is now pushing back.
Another item on the National People’s Congress agenda was China’s economic future.
China was the first country in the world to report cases of COVID-19. The pandemic has severely hit its economy. In 2020 the economy grew by a meagre 2.3%, the slowest growth rate in over four decades.
For 2021, China is aiming for more than 6% growth. It is a rather conservative target compared to market expectations. But Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, doesn't think his country is aiming low.
Beijing has laid out steps to shift its reliance on foreign trade for industrial production to domestic consumption, especially home-grown technology.
China plans to boost its investment in technological research and development. Core technologies like semiconductors, artificial intelligence and military science are main areas for that investment.
At the same time though, China is ramping up control of domestic tech giants like Alibaba, which are criticized by the authorities as ‘monopolies.’
Military spending also took center stage at this year’s NPC.
China is increasing its defense budget by 6.8% to around 210 billion USD in 2021, despite high government debt. China's military spending is the second highest in the world behind the United States. Beijing has insisted that the figures are transparent despite long-standing skepticism.
During the NPC, Chinese president Xi Jinping said that China faces a ‘rising unstable and uncertain’ security situation. Xi didn't specify but China has been nervous about military disputes on several fronts, ranging from South China Sea, to India and Taiwan.
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