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Striving for High-Quality Development

By CPC Leadership Group of the National Bureau of Statistics Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2023-03-02

With the objectives of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the state in mind, CPC’s 20th National Congress placed great emphasis on the importance of the quality of economic development, pointing out that we must, first and foremost, pursue high-quality development in order to build a modern socialist country, calling it an essential requirement of Chinese modernization. The congress stressed the need to fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy and accelerate efforts to foster a new dynamic of development that focuses on the domestic economy and features a positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows. This highlighted in greater detail the overall and long-term significance of the quality of development and serves as a guide for promoting high-quality development going forward.

I. A decade of progress in high-quality development

The decade since CPC’s 18th National Congress in 2012 has been an extraordinary period in China’s socioeconomic development. Faced with profound and complex changes in our domestic and foreign development environments brought about by change on a scale unseen in a century in global affairs, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has remained mindful of both domestic and international imperatives and discerned major trends of the times to propose a series of new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies, develop Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and lead the Chinese economy through difficulties and onto the path of high-quality development.

In the past decade, China’s economy has experienced historic growth and our composite national strength and international influence have increased significantly.

Faced with changes in the international environment and based on the most recent situations and features of our domestic economic operations, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council adhered to the general principle of pursuing economic progress while ensuring stability, improved and made innovations in macro-regulation, and responded effectively to risks and challenges, further consolidating China’s status as a major economy. Between 2013 and 2021, its GDP grew at an average annual rate of 6.6%, making China the fastest growing country among the world’s major economies for several consecutive years. Furthermore, China contributed around 30% to the world economic growth, more than any country in the world. Its GDP increased from 53.9 trillion yuan (accounting for 11.3% of the world economy) in 2012 to 114.4 trillion yuan (18.5%) in 2021. Its status as having the world’s second largest economy, second largest consumer market, largest manufacturing industry, largest goods trade, and largest foreign exchange reserves were all consolidated. Its per capital average GDP increased from US$6,300 in 2012 to US$12,551 in 2021, taking China very close to the World Bank’s definition of a high-income country. China is the world’s largest grain producer and remains ranked first in the world for output of more than 220 industrial products. It has also built the world’s largest networks of high-speed railways and expressways as well as 5G, providing a more solid material foundation for development.

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As harvest season arrives for more than 3,260 hectares of high-quality rice fields in Shiji Township, Jiangsu Province, golden fields blend with neat rows of new houses to create a beautiful autumnal scene, November 2, 2022. In the past decade, China ranked first in the world in terms of grain output. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY ZHANG LIANHUA

In the past decade, China’s innovation-driven development has increased sharply, propelling the country into the ranks of the world’s most innovative countries.

In response to the major opportunities and challenges presented by the new round of global scientific and technological revolution and industrial reform, all provincial authorities and central departments have upheld the core position of innovation in China’s modernization drive. We have deepened implementation of the innovation-driven development strategy, quickly transformed our economic growth model, and increasingly made innovation our primary driver of growth. China has the second-highest R&D investment in the world, reaching 2.8 trillion yuan in 2021, which is equivalent to 2.44% of GDP, an increase of 0.53 percentage points compared with 2012. We have energized the development of the new economy, which has become an important driver of economic growth. In 2021, the value added of new industries and new forms and models of business accounted for 17.25% of GDP, an increase of 1.88 percentage points compared with 2016. Our labor productivity constantly increased, reaching 146,380 yuan per capita in 2021, an increase of 80.3% compared with 2012 (calculated based on prices in 2020). China has risen significantly in the Global Innovation Index to 11th place (up 23 places since 2012) according to the Global Innovation Index 2022 Report issued by the World Intellectual Property Organization, making China an increasingly important member of the global innovation community.

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On November 2, 2022, workers at Masteel Group are hard at work on the site of a major special steel project under the group’s 14th Five-Year Plan in Ma’anshan, Anhui Province. Following the 20th CPC National Congress, Chinese workers raced to secure progress and ensure quality in a year-end push to get all projects completed and operational as soon as possible. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY LUO JISHENG

In the past decade, China’s coordinated development progressed steadily, and our economy underwent restructuring and upgrading.

Confronted with the problems of unbalanced, inadequate, and unsustainable development, all provincial authorities and central departments strove to achieve the basic strategy of expanding domestic consumption, deepened supply-side structural reforms, and encouraged coordinated urban-rural development, which steadily increased the coordination and sustainability of our economic development. Progress was made in industrial upgrading, with an 11.6% increase in the value added of largescale high-tech manufacturing between 2013 and 2021, 4.8 percentage points higher than the growth in value added for large-scale industries as a whole. In 2021, the value added of the service industry accounted for 53.3% of GDP, an increase of 7.8 percentage points compared with 2012. We constantly optimized our demand structure, and the contribution of final consumption expenditure to economic growth was 65.4%, up 10 percentage points compared with 2012, making it the leading driver of economic growth. New-model urbanization steadily progressed, and all aspects of rural development accelerated, with further narrowing of the gap between urban and rural development. The proportion of the population who are permanent urban residents increased from 53.1% in 2012 to 64.72% in 2021, while the ratio between the per capita disposable income of urban residents and that of rural residents fell from 2.88 in 2012 to 2.5 in 2021. We achieved integrated development between China’s four major regions (the eastern, central, western and northeast regions), effectively implemented important regional strategies, and entered a new phase of coordinated regional development.

In the past decade, China has had a positive green development trajectory, and major strides have been taken toward building a beautiful China.

In response to the increasing constraints on energy resources and the environment and people’s desire for a better living environment, people throughout the country have acted on the idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, made solid progress in promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development, and brought about a historic turnaround and wide-ranging changes in environmental protection. Remarkable results have been achieved in the battle against pollution, allowing people to enjoy more blue skies, clear waters, and clean land. In 2021, the proportion of days with good or excellent air quality in cities at or above prefectural level nationwide was 87.5%, the proportion of surface water in China with excellent water quality was 84.9%, and the rate of safe utilization of contaminated arable land remained above 90%. Positive results have been achieved in conserving energy and reducing energy consumption, with a rapid shift toward energy use that is clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient. Between 2013 and 2021, energy consumption per unit GDP cumulatively decreased by 26.4%. In 2021, consumption of clean energy, including natural gas and hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar power accounted for 25.5% of total energy consumption, up 11 percentage points compared with 2012. Efforts to reach peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality are advancing in an orderly manner, public awareness of energy conservation and environmental protection has grown substantially, and environmentally friendly and healthy working and living practices are gradually taking hold.

In the past decade, China took opening up and development to new levels and accelerated the creation of a new model of opening up.

Faced with profound changes in international economic and trade patterns, China remained faithful to the correct orientation of economic globalization, firmly promoted high-standard opening up, used the momentum generated by opening up to boost economic development and international competitiveness, and expanded the breadth and depth of opening up in all areas. China’s status as a major trading country was consolidated. In 2020, its total trade in goods and services was worth US$5.3 trillion, taking China past the United States to become the world’s largest trading nation for the first time. The country’s total trade in goods and services reached US$6.9 trillion in 2021, maintaining its leading position. Two-way investment reached new levels, with actually utilized foreign capital of US$173.5 billion in 2021, an increase of 53.1% compared with 2012 and a record high, while outward direct investment reached US$178.8 billion, the second highest in the world. We achieved positive results in the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative, signing more than 200 cooperation agreements with more than 170 countries and international organizations by the end of 2021. Furthermore, the China-Laos Railway went into operation, and the China-Europe freight train service capitalized upon the unique advantages of international rail transport.

In the past decade, China increased efforts to ensure all its people shared in the fruits of development.

In response to people’s growing desire for a better life, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council continued to pursue a people-centered development philosophy, secured a decisive victory against poverty, strived to stabilize employment and protect living standards, and further improved basic public services, which gave the Chinese people a more complete and lasting sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security. We achieved a comprehensive victory in the battle against poverty, with 98.99 million poor rural residents and 832 impoverished counties lifted out of poverty in the past decade based on the current poverty line, thereby resolving the problem of absolute poverty in China once and for all and scoring another miraculous achievement of historic significance. Employment remained stable overall. Between 2013 and 2021, the total workforce remained stable at more than 740 million, while urban workers increased at an average annual rate of 13 million. Incomes grew in step with the economy. In the same period, national per capita disposable income grew at an average annual rate of 6.6%, 0.5 percentage points quicker than average annual growth in per capita GDP. We also developed the world’s largest education, social security, and healthcare systems to better meet the changing expectations of our people.

II. National economic recovery and continued high-quality development

In the past ten years of the new era, China’s economic, scientific, technological, and comprehensive national strength as well as international influence have continuously risen, and remarkable feats have been achieved in high-quality development. These have laid a solid foundation for embarking on the new journey to build a modern socialist country and fortifying our will and conviction to deal with diverse risks and challenges. We find ourselves at a new starting point looking to the future. The road ahead will not always be smooth, but our economy is resilient, with great potential and ample room to maneuver, and the economic fundamentals sustaining sound development are unchanged and will not change, which will enable us to overcome risks and challenges. In 2022, despite complex and daunting conditions at home and abroad as well as unforeseen factors, our national economy withstood downward pressure and rebounded, and we continued the trend of high-quality development, demonstrating the extraordinary resilience and vitality of our economic development.

1. Economic growth stabilized and rebounded, with the recovery accelerating in the third quarter.

In the first quarter of 2022, our economy was stable, but starting in the second quarter, unexpected factors including the grim and complex international environment, a rise in the risk of global stagflation, the spread of the Covid-19 in China, and high temperatures and droughts, led to significantly weaker economic indicators. As a package of policies to stabilize the economy was rolled out in the third quarter, our economy quickly began to recover, which was a great achievement. According to preliminary data, in the first three quarters of 2022, GDP grew by 3% over the same period the previous year (same below unless otherwise stated), 0.5 percentage points higher than in the first half of the year. Growth in the third quarter alone was 3.9%, 3.5 percentage points faster than in the second quarter, clearly illustrating China’s recovery.

2. Production and demand underwent a sustained recovery, and economic flows gradually improved.

As overall efforts to contain Covid-19 pandemic improved, flows along industrial and supply chains eased, policies designed to stabilize investment and encourage consumption took effect, the main production and demand indicators rebounded, and economic flows ensured market supply meets demand. Domestic demand improved, greatly boosting the economy. In the third quarter, final consumption expenditure drove economic growth by 2.1 percentage points, after a drop of 0.9 percentage points in the second quarter. Gross capital formation drove growth by 0.8 percentage points, compared to an increase of 0.5 percentage points in the second quarter. The rebound of industry and services lent strong support to economic growth. In the third quarter, total industrial added value drove economic growth by 1.4 percentage points, an increase of 1.3 percentage points compared with the second quarter. The service industry added value, meanwhile, pushed economic growth by 1.7 percentage points following a drop of 0.2 percentage points in the second quarter.

3. Foreign trade and investment proved resilient, and solid progress was made in high-standard opening up.

We consolidated economic and trade cooperation with our traditional trading partners and explored trade opportunities with Belt and Road countries and other emerging and developing countries. We strived to create a world-class business environment and promoted policies for liberalizing and facilitating trade and investment, which achieved stable and higher-quality foreign trade and investment. In the first three quarters of 2022, total imports and exports of goods increased by 9.9%, 0.6 percentage points higher than in the first half of the year. Interconnectivity between Belt and Road countries grew significantly. In the first three quarters, China’s trade with Belt and Road countries increased by 20.7%, and the number of freight trains traveling between China and Europe increased by 7%. China continued to be a popular destination for foreign investment in emerging industries, with high-tech industries playing an increasingly prominent role in attracting investment. In the first three quarters of 2022, China’s actually utilized foreign capital increased by 15.6% on a comparable basis, with a growth of 32.3% in high-tech industries.

4. The leading role of innovation became more prominent, and new drivers of growth matured.

There has been no letup in transformation and upgrading, and we have integrated efforts to achieve stable growth, structural adjustments, and reforms. We worked swiftly to unleash economic development potential and achieved promising results in stabilizing economic growth through advances in economic transformation and upgrading. New industries and products experienced rapid growth. In the first three quarters of 2022, the added value of large-scale high-tech manufacturing increased by 8.5%, 4.6 percentage points quicker than the average for large-scale industrial enterprises across all fields, and output of new-energy vehicles and solar cells increased by 112.5% and 33.7%, respectively. Manufacturing’s share of the economy increased. In the first three quarters, the added value of manufacturing accounted for 28.1% of GDP, up 0.5 percentage points. In the same period, investment in high-tech industries rocketed, increasing 20.2% on the year before, and the gap between urban and rural incomes closed, with the ratio between the per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents narrowing by 0.05.

5. Employment and prices were stable overall, and people’s standard of living continued to improve.

Stable employment, consistent prices, and protection of people’s standard of living are paramount concerns of the CPC and the state, and we continued to strengthen areas of weakness to achieve improvements in people’s lives. Employment gradually rebounded, with the nationwide surveyed urban unemployment rate at 5.4% in the third quarter of 2022, down 0.4 percentage points compared with the previous quarter. In the first three quarters of 2022, 10.01 million new urban jobs were created, 91% of the annual target. Thanks to strong supply capacity and the effectiveness of policies aimed at stabilizing supply and prices, China’s prices went up only moderately. Consumer prices rose 2% in the first three quarters of 2022, which is in sharp contrast to the soaring inflation in Western developed economies. Personal income grew steadily, with national per capita disposable income up 3.2% in the first three quarters, which was 0.2 percentage points higher than GDP growth. Investment in public wellbeing continued to increase, with a 13.2% increase in investment in the social sector in the first three quarters of 2022, including increases in health and education investment of 31.2% and 8.1%, respectively.

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Shoppers browse the Rainbow Market on Nanbin Road, Chongqing, October 29, 2022. China is striving to drive integrated and clustered development of strategic emerging industries, accelerate the growth of modern services, and achieve deeper integration in the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY LONG FAN

6. Production factors were effectively protected, thereby consolidating China’s development and security.

Adequate liquidity was maintained, flows of transportation and logistics gradually eased, and improvements were made in safeguarding production factors, all of which were instrumental in the recovery of the economy. Additionally, to hold fast to the basic requirements for security and development, safeguards related to food and energy were strengthened, production and supply chains were stabilized, and the foundations of security and development were bolstered. The autumn harvest is expected to deliver another bumper year of crop production, with annual output once again above 650 million metric tons. There were significant increases in energy production, with supplies successfully safeguarded. Outputs of raw coal and natural gas increased 11.2% and 5.4% in the first three quarters of 2022, which were 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points higher than in the first half of the year. Manufacturing chains improved further. In the first three quarters, the added value of the automobile manufacturing industry increased by 6.9%, with automobile production up 8.1%, reversing the decline in the first half of the year. This had a significant impact on the recovery of both upstream and downstream links in the industry chain.

III. Implementing the guiding principles of CPC’s 20th National Congress and accelerating high-quality economic development

Embarking on our new journey with new mission and new tasks, we must acknowledge the difficulties and complexities we will encounter in the course of advancing development, but we must also be aware that China benefits from the strong leadership of the CPC, significant advantages bestowed by the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, a solid foundation thanks to sustained rapid development, as well as favorable strategic conditions, such as a long-term stable social environment and a spirit of self-confidence and self-reliance. Together, these things give us the requisite faith, determination, support, and conditions to promote high-quality development and advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation via a Chinese path to modernization. The road ahead will be fraught with difficulties, but our constant efforts will reap results. We must fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy, accelerate the construction of the new development dynamic, and promote greater strides in high-quality development, in order to compose a new chapter on building a modern socialist country.

1. We shall uphold and strengthen CPC’s leadership over economic work.

China has earned remarkable achievements in high-quality economic development in the past decade of the new era, which is attributable to General Secretary Xi Jinping being at the core of the CPC Central Committee and firmly at the helm of the whole Party, as well as to the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era. We are concurrently experiencing change on a scale unseen in a century to the global order and a once-in-a-century pandemic of Covid-19, which pose unprecedented risks and challenges on the road ahead. We must thoroughly grasp the significance of affirming Xi Jinping’s core position on the CPC Central Committee and in the Party as a whole as well as the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era. We must also strengthen CPC’s leadership over economic work, implement Xi Jinping thought on economics, and align our thoughts and actions with the CPC Central Committee’s decisions and arrangements regarding developing the economy.

2. We shall continue to pursue innovation in order to quickly build a modernized economy.

Developing a modernized economy is vital for promoting high-quality development, and innovation offers strategic support for building a modernized economy. We must continue to focus on the real economy in our pursuit of economic growth, advance new-type industrialization, accelerate efforts to build China’s strength in manufacturing, product quality, cyberspace, and digital technology, and make our industrial and supply chains more resilient and secure. We will promote integrated and clustered development of strategic emerging industries, accelerate the development of modern service industries, and promote extensive integration between the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. We will develop a strong workforce for our modernization drive by thoroughly implementing the strategies to invigorate China through science and education, develop people of skill and talent, and drive development through innovation.

3. We shall continue to promote coordinated development between regions and between urban and rural areas.

Coordination is an endogenous trait of high-quality development. We will continue to prioritize agricultural and rural development, advance rural revitalization, pursue the integrated development of urban and rural areas, and facilitate flows of production factors between them. We will consolidate and expand our achievements in poverty alleviation and help areas and people that have just shaken off poverty to build their own momentum for growth. We will thoroughly implement the coordinated regional development strategy, major regional strategies, and function zoning strategy. We need to accelerate the development of a regional economic layout with various regions maximizing their own strengths and mutually reinforcing each other and a territorial space system that promote high-quality development. We will advance people-centered new-model urbanization, encourage the orderly development of city clusters and metropolitan areas, and promote the coordinated development of large, medium, and small cities and small towns.

4. We shall continue the shift toward a green and low-carbon development model.

Environmental protection is a salient feature and foundation of high-quality development. We must accelerate the transition to a model of green development, implement a comprehensive conservation strategy, and develop green and low-carbon industries. We must also encourage green consumption and promote green and low-carbon methods of production and lifestyles. We will intensify efforts to prevent pollution as well as continue efforts to keep our skies blue, waters clear, and land clean. We will actively yet prudently seek to reach peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality. Based on China’s energy and resource endowments, we will advance initiatives to reach peak carbon emissions in a well-planned and phased manner in line with the principle of building the new before discarding the old. We will also thoroughly advance the energy revolution and enthusiastically participate in global governance of the response to climate change.

5. We shall deepen market-based reforms and expand high-standard opening up.

The policy of reform and opening up is the path we must take to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics and realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. We must uphold and improve China’s basic socialist economic systems. We must firmly consolidate and develop the public sector and unwaveringly encourage, support, and guide the development of the non-public sector. We will build a unified national market, advance reforms for the market-based allocation of production factors, and put in place a high-standard market system. We will promote high-standard opening up, steadily expand institutional opening up with regard to rules, regulations, management, and standards, as well as foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and international.

6. We shall continue to put the people first and pursue development for their sake.

Benefiting the people is the fundamental principle of governance. Continuously putting the people first is the source of our Party’s strength and the foundation on which its success is built, and it is what distinguishes the CPC from Western political parties. We must ensure and improve the people’s wellbeing in pursuing development and intensify efforts to implement the employment-first policy in order to promote high-quality and full employment. We need to step up investment in public wellbeing and increase the level of social welfare. We need to make public services more balanced and accessible and further resolve difficulties people face in areas such as education, healthcare, elderly care, childcare, and housing. We also need to improve the system of income distribution to make tangible progress in promoting common prosperity.

7. We shall both pursue development and ensure security.

National security is the bedrock of our national rejuvenation. We must resolutely pursue a holistic approach to national security and promote national security in all areas and stages of socioeconomic development, in order to achieve both high-quality development and high-quality security featuring positive interactions and concerted efforts. We need to improve the national security system and strengthen safeguards for ensuring economic, major infrastructure, financial, cyber, data, and resource security. We need to build up security capacity in key areas and ensure the security of food, energy, and resources as well as major industrial and supply chains. We must also improve public safety governance and strive to create a security environment that is conducive to socioeconomic development.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 22, 2022)