These are lofty ambitions, and so far it was not at all clear how Beijing planned to fulfill them. But the world got more clues last week when Premier Li Keqiang outlined some aspects of the country’s agenda, and Beijing released a draft of the five-year plan.
Get rid of dependence on foreign technology
Li stressed the importance of technological development and innovation during his Friday speech. He said China will increase spending on research and development by more than 7% annually. The Chinese government has previously identified semiconductors, 5G networks, and cloud computing as sensitive areas, among others.
The state versus the private sector
The government has made clear in recent months – and in its new five-year plan – that these companies are expected to stick to the CCP line if they are to succeed.
“As Xi pursues the ambitions of China at the forefront of technology, Beijing realizes that the top-down approach has its limits,” Eurasia Group analysts wrote in a recent research report. But Beijing’s willingness to leave more to the market will be challenged by Xi’s sense of urgency and repeated preference for a strong hand. [Party] And the state. “
The new five-year plan gave more insights into how the authorities would like to expand their reach. Technology companies are “encouraged” to share data related to research, e-commerce and social networks.
Reaching carbon neutrality
As China charts its economic course for the coming years, it will also have to balance those ambitions with the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis.
The country has spent decades pinning its rise on mega infrastructure projects and industrialization, building an economic engine that now relies heavily on dirty energy. Analysts said that the pressures caused by the Covid-19 virus and the tensions with the West are pushing China to increase spending on these energy sources, not less.
However, the country is finally starting to lay out some details about how it wants to work on climate coal.
Even before the “two-session” meeting began, the state power grid had revealed plans to modernize its network, reduce coal power generation, and develop charging stations for electric vehicles.
The draft five-year plan contained more criteria. By the end of 2025, China aims to increase the use of non-fossil fuels to 20% of total energy consumption from the current level of 15%. This includes efforts to build more nuclear power plants and clean energy facilities.
Chinese Premier Li said Friday that China plans to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 3% in 2021. It plans to do so by eliminating heavy air pollution and requiring about 70% of the heating in the northern part of the country to come from clean energy. Sources, among other methods.
“This should be the start of commitment to the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2060,” Iris Pang, chief economist of Greater China at ING, said in a report Friday.
China has identified other ways to access coal, including by building more clean energy facilities such as hydropower plants and wind farms.
But some climate experts argue that the five-year plan still lacks important details about how China will eventually move away from coal in a more meaningful way.
“As far as climate is concerned, initial indications from China’s 14th Five-Year Plan are disappointing,” said Swithin Lowe, a senior Chinese analyst with the Climate Action Tracking Program at the New Climet Institute, in a statement Friday. “While it is positive that this plan affirms its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060, and for emissions to peak before 2030, there is little evidence of the change required to reach this goal.”
Ivana Kotasova and Stephen Jiang contributed to this report.