Monday, April 19, 2021

China lays out ambitious five-year targets at National People’s Congress

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China’s economic planners are used to setting ambitious targets, and its latest five-year plan running to 2025 is no exception. Here are some of the most impressive numbers outlined by the government at its annual National People’s Congress, which kicked off Friday.

Research Spending to Rival US

China’s leadership is worried about US sanctions cutting off access to core technologies, and wants to make the economy more dependent on innovation as traditional growth engines like urbanization are slowing. A top priority is increasing spending on research and development, which covers basic scientific research and spending by companies on the development of new products.

The government is targeting 7% annual growth in R&D spending through 2025, which would bring its total spending to 3.76 trillion yuan ($580 billion) by the end of the period. That’s more than the $548 billion the US spent in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.

10 Million New Urban Residents a Year

China wants 65% of its population to live in towns and cities by 2025, up from 60.6% in 2019. As the population will stay roughly constant at 1.4 billion over that period, that means about 50 million people will need to move permanently from rural to urban areas over the next five years.

Read more: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About China’s NPC So Far

84,000 New Doctors a Year

The public health care system is underfunded by developed-world standards. Beijing is targeting a ratio of 3.2 doctors per 1,000 people by 2025, up from 2.9 today. Due to China’s vast population, that means about 420,000 extra physicians need to be trained by then. The government has a pool of more than 9 million new college graduates each year to recruit from.

20 New Nuclear Reactors

China is backing nuclear power as part of its drive to cut carbon emissions. The government aims to have 70 gigawatts of nuclear generation capacity by 2025 from about 50 gigawatts at the end of last year. That would equate to about 20 new reactors.

New Forests Larger Than South Korea

As part of its environmental aims, Beijing wants to increase the size of the nation’s forests. Trees soak up carbon dioxide, absorb water and help reduce the flooding that plagues large parts of the country. Huge tree-planting schemes have been common for over a decade, although some are criticized because of their lack of biodiversity.

The plan is for forests to cover 24.1% of the country’s total land area by 2025, up from 23.2% in 2019. As China is the world’s third-largest country by area — being roughly the same size as the US that will mean planting more than 11 million hectares of new forests by 2025, about the same size as the US state of Ohio, and larger than South Korea.

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