Annual meet reveals China’s development priorities for 2021
By Adhere Cavince
This year, China successfully staged its Two Sessions meeting in March per custom. The annual meeting of China's top legislature - the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference remains the most important event in China’s annual calendar. It is a platform for consultation, deliberations and affirmation of China’s development aspirations, decisions and targets. By bringing together delegates from every component of the Chinese society, the gathering also promotes people driven policy making and participatory governance.
Unlike last year when the event was postponed to May and largely staged virtually, the 2021 edition signals China’s success in managing the Covid-19 disease and substantial return to normalcy. The meeting was particularly critical, coming only a year after the declaration of the Covid-19 disease as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. China only recently announced its victory against absolute poverty while the Communist Party of China is celebrating its centenary. This year, Beijing is also beginning to roll out the 14th five year development plan covering 2021-2015.
Like past editions, the 2021 Two Sessions meeting has offered both Chinese and foreigners an opportunity to understand the direction that Chinese government intends to take with regards to managing domestic and foreign affairs. From the government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang, China has lined up a raft of activities, decisions and programmes that will define its engagements abroad this year.
International cooperation against the Covid-19 global pandemic, particularly with developing countries, remains a key agenda for China in 2021. The pandemic remains a strong threat to African economies and people’s health. China has committed to continue helping African countries acquire the Covid-19 vaccines to assist the countries in their pandemic response towards economic recovery. Besides the 10 million doses given through the Covax facility, China is also actively donating vaccines to a number of countries in the continent. The donations have so far enabled countries which were at the tail of the vaccine queue to acquire the commodities and begin inoculating frontline healthcare providers and other vulnerable groups.
In order to spur economic recovery from the pandemic, Beijing has resolved to forge ahead with the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative. With an emphasis on high quality and co-construction of the projects under the initiative, China aims to enhance sustainability and impact of the desired projects in the BRI participating countries. More African countries are joining the BRI because it resonates with their own development agenda across the identified pillars. Dilapidated or non-existent infrastructure has for instance held back Africa’s integration and global competitiveness. With the roll out of Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the continent has a chance to achieve greater levels of integration by aligning its development priorities and programmes with the BRI.
China has also announced intentions to sustain the reforms and opening up momentum by granting access to sectors that remained closed to foreign investors. Coupled with the decision to strengthen protection of legitimate rights of foreign investors, new reform avenues such as ecommerce will further open up the Chinese economy to the world, unleashing opportunities for millions of people in the developing countries. By ramping up financial support to small and medium foreign enterprises, China is committing to enhance economic globalization, while ensuring that resource-constrained firms get a better chance at entrepreneurship.
Finally, Beijing has set its economic expansion target for 2021 at 6%. While this figure is quite modest, compared to the pre-Covid-19 period; it is an indication of the vitality of the Chinese economy against the backdrop of the global health crises. China was the only major country to register positive economic growth of 2.3% in 2020. As the second largest economy in the world, a buoyant Chinese economy will support the global economic recovery; a much needed scenario in African economies that have been dealt a blow by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer is a researcher of international relations. Twitter: @Cavinceworld.