People studying China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), which is expected to be finalized next week by the National People’s Congress, will notice it includes two target types, according to China’s top planning official.
Xu Shaoshi, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the plan will include both “guiding targets” and “binding targets”.
As a rule, a binding target will include tasks assigned to various administrations overseeing government-run industries and to regional governments. These organizations will be duty-bound to complete those tasks or the performance of officials will be re-evaluated.
A guiding target, by comparison, will apply to areas of the market economy and provide guidance to companies’ competitive services, Xu said during a news conference on March 6 on the sidelines of the ongoing NPC annual session.
Government offices will not be duty-bound to achieve these guiding targets, although they will be created based upon reasonable forecasts of future trends and should not be unreasonable, he said.
Within the 13th Five-Year Plan, there will likely be more binding targets for social development, rather than economic development, according to officials who participated in the drafting of the plan.
In fact, China’s four major economic targets for the period are all expected to be guiding targets, including benchmarks for GDP, the urbanization ratio of the total population, labor productivity and the share of service industries’ contribution to GDP.
In contrast, there will be 10 major environmental targets within the plan, relating to such things as energy consumption per unit of GDP and emission levels of CO2 per unit of GDP, that will be binding for all industry administrations and local governments.
“The 13th Five-Year Plan sets more binding targets concerning the people’s livelihoods, which are essential for China’s sustainable economic growth,” Xu said.
At a time when the economy is facing downward pressure, more pollution controls and poverty-reduction targets have been added to the targets that must be attained by the end of 2020.
Other than the 10 major environmental targets, there will be three other major targets in the 13th Five-Year Plan, namely poverty reduction, workers’ average time in education and shantytown redevelopment.
Xu said the government will invest more money to help tackle challenges in meeting these binding targets.
Xu’s comments echo those of Premier Li Keqiang, who announced in his report on March 5 that a total of 500 billion yuan ($76.7 billion) will be invested in key fields this year, including affordable housing projects, energy conservation, environmental protection and poverty reduction.
The targets and extra spending were welcomed by observers.
“Rather than solely pursuing economic growth, more constraints and targets on well-being shows the central government’s strong commitment to shift to a greener and sustainable growth model,” said Hu Angang, an economics professor at Tsinghua University.
“With a more balanced target system, China is not only able to make a greater contribution to the world economy, but do so in a greener and sustainable way.”