China’s 5-Year Plan – The Big Picture – Part 1.

We all know now that what happens in China affects us all – not even the Nordics are immune to their power, influence and economic & social development.

The following paper is the first of a series of five interesting new articles about China’s latest 5-year plan that were written and originally published by four independent experts – Dr. Nannan Lundin, Linnea Yang, Jessica Zhang and Matilde Eng, all of whom work at the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. There are five parts to this series are the Big Picture, Innovation China, Digital China, Carbon Neutral China and TheWay Forward.


China’s Two-Session (4 – 11 March) has concluded, at a significant time, i.e. when China is optimistically and confidently re-starting its economy. At the same time, the uncertainties about the Covid-19 pandemic recovery and the global economy as well as other global challenges are rampant and becoming even more complex. 

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (FYP, 2021-2025) and the Long-Range Objectives to 2035 were announced in a critical time, i.e. when China is making strategic choices to start off with a new FYP-period. These choices will define and refine China’s own transformation pathways forward, and in turn, will have profound impacts on China’s role in the World and on the World. 

After having tried to digest the extensive reporting from and commenting on the Two-Session and the 14th FYP, both here in China and outside, it is time to reflect on how we can understand some of the key messages from the 14th FYP. From our perspective, we aim to relate this understanding to concrete possibilities and mutual interests for future bilateral cooperation with China, on science, innovation and sustainability. 

Keeping the above in mind, we will share our observations and reflections on the 14th FYP in this blog – departing from our “graphic interpretation” of the 14th FYP, to make the policy messages more accessible as well as based on insightful views from some Chinese and international experts to highlight the key issues. 

The “Big Picture” … 

When looking at the 14th FYP, (at least) two things are important. Firstly, it is important to see the policy messages from a long-term perspective, i.e. China’s long-range objectives for 2035” and secondly, it is important to have a “beyond-GDP perspective” and give more focus to the qualitative changes in China’s structural reforms and competitiveness enhancement. Interestingly, no other target on GDP growth than keeping growth within a ‘reasonable range’ was set in the 14th FYP. 

Beyond this more flexible and downplayed view on GDP growth associated with the current Covid 19 pandemic situation, there is a clear consensus among both Chinese and international economists that China is moving from a high-speed to medium-speed growth. Instead of focusing on the total size of the economy, the per capita and structural performance are more useful and justified indicators for China’s future transformation. Let us outline the “big picture” of China’s future transformation, borrowing the insightful words from one of China’s leading economists: Underneath the (quantitative) transition from the high-speed to the medium-speed growth, there is a comprehensive (qualitative) transition of the drivers for growth, economic structure as well as governance and the rules of the game…”. 

So then, what is the key objective of this comprehensive transition and what are the strategic components to ensure that the comprehensive transformation will make a difference? From reading the 14th FYP, we found 4 central words/themes which might be representative for the overall objective: efficiency, resilience, competitiveness, and sustainability. In terms of structural performance in this comprehensive transition, let us, from our perspective, highlight 3 strategic components in the 14th FYP as below that could be game-changers and make a difference. 

Follow us as we explore three major perspectives: Innovation-Driven China; Digital China, and Carbon Neutral China in the upcoming blog post. Followed by an analysis of the way forward for China… 

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