As the National People’s Congress meetings in Beijing come to a close, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University academics Dr Florian Kohlbacher and Yiping Dong have been commenting on certain aspects of the agenda.
The annual NPC meetings were held from 4 until 16 March this year to review the draft of China’s next five-year plan. Three thousand delegates met to define priorities for China's economic and social development.
Dr Florian Kohlbacher of International Business School Suzhou said that China’s economic growth needs to slow down and that he’s generally quite optimistic about the Chinese economy: “I think that a lot of the doom and gloom talk that we hear about (especially outside of China) currently is exaggerated. But structural reforms are absolutely necessary.”
Regarding plans to create 50 million jobs over the next five years, Dr Kohlbacher said it is important to ask certain questions including what kinds of jobs they will be, in which sectors and whether they are sustainable long-term.
Yiping Dong of the Department of Architecture had some comments regarding changes to China’s industries, in particular one of the five-year plan goals to limit coal production and coal-fired power generation.
“My research field is to do with industrial heritage, which is now becoming a crucial problem as large steel plants and coal mines are falling into disuse,” she said.
“What can we do with these industrial relics? What can architects and planners do to repurpose these sites in China’s new economic context? These are questions I’m trying to answer through my research.”
Regarding government plans for increased urbanization, including a target for 60 percent of the population to be living in cities in five years’ time, Yiping said she thought the speed and form of urbanisation in China should be carefully controlled and different to what has happened over the past 10 to fifteen years: “Efforts and investment have been focussed on the major metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing, but now more attention is needed for the development of second and third-tier cities,” she said.
Dr Kohlbacher also commented on the need for reform of the hukou household registration system in the context of urbanisation, saying that under the current system, living in a city has had different implications for different people.
“We need make real migration from rural to urban areas possible or there will continue to be huge inequalities between urban citizens and migrant workers,” he said.