Why China’s Five-Year Plans work

  China’s government Five-Year Plans are the most awaited, watched, analyzed and media-covered government plans in the world. It is without equal as the most commentated socio-economic-political development plan by economists, political scientists and global politicians.

 China and its plans, now being the largest economy in the world truly deserves this level of attention; but it is China’s astounding record of achieving the long-term goals of its regular Five-Year Plans that imbues their goals and strategies to achieve them with such awesome credibility.

Other countries’ development plans

 The Japanese were known for their MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) planning in the latter half of the last century during Japan period of fantastic economic rise, but U.S. intervention via the Plaza Accord to curtail Japan’s rise put a stop the MITI mythology and stunted Japan to this day.

So, sovereignty is fundamental for a nation’s ability to fully implement its plans.

The long-term socio-political and economic planning of Western governments are never as credible and taken as seriously as the plans and strategies of their corporate behemoths, a.k.a. the corporatocracy. For the Western societies are by and large controlled by the private finance capital and its commercial, industrial and political extensions.

 The long-term plans of most developing countries are none existent or inefficacious, as the gravitational pull of the giant economies condition the smaller or still nascent economies. They cannot help but be tossed hither and thither by the geopolitical and natural vicissitudes afflicting emerging nations and economies – unless they compensate with maximum discipline and adaptability.

The Philippine experience

 The Philippines is a perfect example of the emerging economy that once had a realistic, comprehensive and totally credible development plan that promised to usher in an era of advanced development. This was in the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos when infrastructures for cheap energy, control of natural threats, transportation and commerce, technology were being set up.

Marcos was close to succeeding but the geopolitical (US) and financial forces conspired to bring him down at a moment of weakness.  In the aftermath all the infrastructure plans went awry through cancellations, delays, neglect, and privatization of profitable state assets and operations to the feudal (“hacienderos” like the Aquino-Cojuangcos) and financial oligarchs (Ayalas,, Lopez et al) unimaginable profits.

 After Marcos’ fall many reversals ensued: recurrent massive floods afflict the land after dozens of hydroelectric dams and flood control projects were cancelled, the highest energy cost in Asia followed the cancellation or privatization of power projects such as the nuclear power project and the state power companies hindering investments and industrialization, irrigation expansion ceased stunting rice production.

China’s continuous plans and growth

 China has had uninterrupted governance by the leadership of one political party, the Communist Party of China (CPC), for seventy-years since 1949 and a series of Five-Year Plans since 1953 within the context of Ten-Year visionary outlines, and following the principle of “adjust, reform, rectify and improve” implemented the plans by mobilizing and focusing all human, material and financial resources towards the targeted goals.

 Reviewing the past 13 Five-Year Plans, I was struck by the succinct yet crystal clear goals the Five-Year plans could be laid out with.

For example, in the First Five-Year Plan for the years 1953 to 1957 (end of Korean War, focus on development starts) one key task was “…construction of 694- large and medium-sized industrial projects” which being so specific can only mean each had a designated output which is quite meticulously laid out. The Second Plan (1957-1962) is better known in history as it was the period of the Great Leap Forward aimed at expanding China’s heavy industry which mobilized

massively the agricultural work force to achieve the goal but was plagued by untimely natural disasters such as droughts and infestations that induced a period of famine.

The errors of this period have been admitted in party narratives of the era.

Throughout the decades that the Five-Year Plans were made and implemented mistakes were evaluated and acknowledged, and lessons taken from them; thence, the plans continued to be improved and advanced while steady economic and industrial growth continued even before the accession to the WTO that the West misleadingly propagate as the primary reason for China’s spectacular growth.

One-Party Rule and the scientific method

There is no doubt that the One-Party Rule with a democratic ideology to serve the people, and continuity of governance allows China attain its long-term goals. While errors are never permanent, as continuity provides both the motivation and the opportunity to correct mistakes. In the multi- and alternating elected system

A look at the graph tracking China’s growth from 1952 show2s thesteady rise of China’s economy except for the two serious dips during the 60s identified already as the period of the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution, while adjustment periods due to reforms and reorientation of the economy caused brief periods of sideways motion, but the continuous steep rise is unmistakable.

such continuity is just about impossible, mistakes are made and forgotten or swept under the rug for new impact projects to trumpeted and showcase.

The efficacy of a continuous a One-Party Rule of over 70-years and confidently projected to continue towards its centenary assumes that the party is able to serve to the satisfaction of its constituency. Otherwise it can be expected to experiences disaffection, resistance and disruptions, especially in a world rife with intense geopolitical pressures. The CPC has proven its durability by the vast support of its people proven by surveys upon surveys of Western pollsters.

 China attributes its success to scientific socialism, the method for studying, understanding and predicting social, economic and material phenomena through study of historical trends. Its use of the scientific method to “seek truth from facts” and discern probable outcomes and developments, have been proven unerring in planning and implementation to advancing the welfare of the people and prevent distraction by populist or religious obscurantism

Focus and professionalism.

 Other societies have equally developed theoretical approaches to studying socio-economic and political realities but are unlike the CPC in China which has only one mission – progress and prosperity of the people as a nation. In most Western societies the mission of their political parties and State are divided and alternate between vying and often conflicting social, class and corporate interests to the detriment of national goals.

 The scientific orientation and single-minded dedication to the cause of serving the people shape the overall governance of the CPC and China. Hence, today, China is renowned by its leadership comprised of engineers and social scientists, unlike in many other countries run by entertainers, politicians funded by oligarchies, military usurpers, single-cause activists and other strangers.

 I often read of the puzzlement of some Western scholars how the One-Party rule in China is able to maintain an efficient government and contain corruption without checks-and-balances of a multi-party state and a free-wheeling press and media. What would be the feedback mechanism a regular election provides to make public officials accountable. The truth is, electoral democracy has not assured efficient feedback mechanism and immunity from corruption either.

Feedback and Leadership by example

 Professor of International Relations of Fudan University and former interpreter of Premier Ding Xiaoping Zhang Wei Wei explain the feedback and anti-corruption mechanisms in China; i.e. the Central Discipline Inspection Commission as well as

the extensive use of scientific surveys amongst the people that keep government officials in check and keeping a pulse on the wishes and sentiments of the people.

 Corruption is a perennial problem to good governance all over the world and China is no exception, it is also where the CPC leadership plays a vital role in taking the lead by setting the example for the rest of the gargantuan Chinese government bureaucracy.

My impression is the party ideology and personal leadership are crucial elements in checking corruption, and the CPC as well as President Xi Jinping has led the way in recent years.

In the mid-2010s in one official media delegation I joined to China the party cadres accompanying our delegation on the tour would regularly scurry off to a separate room when our delegation was being treated (which was every meal) to lavish, sumptuous 12-course lunches and dinners. When I asked our host why this was, I was told that the party members  had their own simple meals as they should not be seen enjoying the luxuries afforded the guests.

 The Party is a pivotal element in the success of China’s Five-Year Plans by providing the leadership and the example of the sacrifice and dedication. In the 13th Five-Year Plan goals of eradicating poverty party cadres are sent down to the poorest communities to ensure that every family is touched by the State program to uplift the family income with livelihood projects and even transfer to new homes.

Planning for and leading the World

China has, by force of its economic success, become a leader in the 21st Century world. This fact has been affirmed by the launching of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) initiated by ASEAN and backed by China, joined in by Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and tagged as the largest Free Trade bloc covering 30% of the global economy and population. The U.S. left itself out of the bloc when it organized the TPP to exclude China then abandoned the TPP as RCEP rose.

By virtue of China’s unparalleled market of 1.3-billion financially empowered population, China’s economic plans also pull along the majority nations of Asia along its path of future development. Fortunately, China’s unique insight as a new superpower now and an old civilization wise to the lessons of history is that it cannot continue along the path of peaceful growth unless it brings the rest of the world with it on this road to peaceful rise and prosperity.

 In pursuing this conviction and vision China has been building the Belt and Road Initiative, it has advocated the Multi-polar World where it pledges never to be “The One” or “The First” in the manner that the U.S. persists in doing, but just be one among many at the council of global powers, it has advocated a new paradigm of “Win-Win” or mutual benefit instead of simple national interest for international relations.

 In resetting the global direction and relations China has promised to be a global engine for growth by turning on its internal consumer market to consume goods and service from the World in the next decade to pump up the economies of smaller nations as exemplified by its China International Import Expo (CIIE) inviting suppliers of the world to sell to China. This is a direct contrast to the Western power trip in the 19th and 20th Century to grab resources and markets.

Vision of a “Community of Shared Future for Mankind”

China, led by well trained, highly intellectual party ideologues in the mold of Plato’s “philosopher king” Plato or “the superior man” of Confucius, realizes that its future cannot be limited to just cultivating China’s interest and welfare without the world synchronously growing with it; hence, since the last decades it has persistently advocated its vision of the world as a “Community of Shared Future for Mankind”.

 In RCEP China highlights this global community vision, supporting multilateralism and yielding initiative and centrality to ASEAN’s lead in the historic trade bloc that will lower tariffs eventually to zero amongst members, simplify country of origin identification, support environmental sustainability, invite investments to smaller countries sans the pro-corporatist “investor-state dispute resolution” proviso in Western backed free trade agreements.

Unlike the U.S. pushed globalization in the second half of 20th century based on the Washington Consensus’ “privatization, deregulation and liberalization” (which resulted in privatization and high rates of public utilities) the RCEP concept respects states and government sovereignty and the principle of public welfare over private interest, promoting “Win-Win” relations. As Korea’s Arirang news recently described in its report “RCEP deal to reshape global trading system…” to be fairer and more inclusive.

 There is, at the moment only one world power offering a global vision, as the United States of America will apparently be fixing up its own house in the next few years. The US is just stepping onto the threshold of a long period of internal realignment.

Only China has a vision and is planning for a positive future for the global community. Given China’s track record of achieving its beneficent goals for its people, we can believe that its constructive plan and vision for peace and prosperity of humanity will be as successful.

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