Former United States ambassador J. Stapleton Roy said he believes the two sessions will cover the key issues that China faces, particularly the domestic economic situation.
“I think all of the major issues that China is facing will come up in some fashion,” Roy, the US ambassador to China from 1991 to 1995, said before the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress.
“This includes particularly the question of the domestic economic situation, whether you are making the proper progress in terms of the goals that China has set for itself in the five-year plan — you’re supposed to be doubling the size of your economy and reaching the xiaokang (or moderately prosperous) level of development — whether you are on track to do that,” he said.
At the opening of the NPC meeting on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang announced China’s GDP growth target this year — a key year in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), which aims to double GDP and people’s incomes by 2020 from the 2010 level. That in turn will be key to realizing the country’s first Centenary Goal — building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the time the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary in 2021.
For this year, China has set a lower, flexible economic growth target of 6 to 6.5 percent.
The Premier also laid out other economic and social development goals in his Government Work Report for lawmakers to discuss and debate. Having development goals in place means “you have the advantage of knowing where you want to be” in developing the economy, Roy said.
Roy, who is also the founding director emeritus and a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, has on many occasions said China’s practice of setting development targets is inspirational.
In a 2017 keynote speech at the University of Chicago, Roy said that unlike the US, leaders in China think long term, including ending abject poverty by 2020, and raising the country’s per capita GDP to the level of a medium-income European country by 2049 — the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
“We don’t even have goals for this administration, for example, they’re still in the process of doing so. And my question is, why don’t we have some long-term goals?” he said during his speech.
In an interview with China Daily, Roy reiterated that the US is “much too short-range” in terms of development goals.
“One of the things that I advocate that I think would be a good thing is we should have some private sector institution, at the beginning of every administration say, based on where we are, where we should be four years from now in terms of GDP, the size of the national debt and (other) objectives,” he said.
Regarding China’s anti-corruption campaign, which will be another topic of interest at this year’s two sessions, Roy said ratcheting up graft-busting efforts is the right thing to do.
At the beginning of this year, President Xi Jinping called for the ramping up of the fight against corruption, ensuring that officials “don’t dare” and “have no desire” to be corrupt.
“He’s trying to address the problem more effectively than any of the previous leaders,” Roy said. “So I think it’s a good thing.”