(220305) -- BEIJING, March 5, 2022 (Xinhua) -- The fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) opens at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2022. (Xinhua/Xing Guangli)

OPINION – The 2022 Government Report: Strong Governance in China

The 2022 Government Report delivered by the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is not only comprehensive in its scope but also demonstrating strong and effective governance in mainland China with immediate implications for Hong Kong and Macau.

The 2022 report first reviewed the year 2021, which was viewed by Li as a landmark and meaningful period in which the Communist Party of China (CPC) “under the core leadership of comrade Xi Jinping” celebrated its 100thanniversary, scored its victory over poverty, achieved an affluent society and comprehensively established China as a socialist and modern state. The year 2021 was marked by sustained economic development, enhanced technological innovation, improved regional development, deepened openness in China’s internal market and external trade, the increased living standard of the people, and the persistent solid control over the spread of infectious disease.

Premier Li then turned to the need for China to maintain its macro-economic continuity by having a stable monetary policy, helping local governments to tackle the risks of debt, improving the ability of local governments in issuing bonds, and enhancing the ability of high school graduates to be employed. Structurally, ensuring economic stability and employment are the keys to economic success.

He emphasized the need for the government to reduce the tax burden on small and medium enterprises, including the reduced charges on coal, electricity and energy supplies and the enhanced protection of transport infrastructure, such as railways, roads, aviation, marine transport and ports. Large banks are expected to provide 40 percent of additional loans to the enterprises that need help.

The business environment has to be improved continuously by market reforms, reduction of red tape in licensing procedures and inspection, and increased measures in innovation and anti-monopoly while maintaining fair competition.

The logistics supply chains of various industries need to be protected, while enhancing the leadership of technological innovation, strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights, and accelerating the digitalization of traditional industries.

In dealing with regional coordinated development, the central government promotes the usage of counties and cities as the key units of urbanization and infrastructure projects. Agricultural subsidies are enhanced to protect food supply and farmers. Township enterprises are also protected through governmental subsidies.

Ecological protection persists with the continued emphasis on sustainable development so that Yangtze River will witness a ban on fishing for ten years, that renewal energies will be produced, and the carbon emission exchange market will begin.

In the protection of the people’s livelihood, Li’s report emphasizes the importance of strengthening free education in villages to benefit 37 million students, giving more subsidies to poor students, ensuring the pension for retired employees, widening social protection net to embrace disabled members of families, implementing the three-child policy, consolidating rental units and residence, and enhancing the supervision over anti-Covid-10 vaccines.

(220305) — BEIJING, March 5, 2022 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a government work report at the opening meeting of the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2022. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

To promote the rule of law and social governance, Li mentioned the need for the government to respond to the motions raised members of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, to foster the function of auditing work, to improve the innovative governance of towns and villages, to solve the problems of citizens who petitioned various levels of government, to enhance safe production, and to fight against Internet crime and other criminal activities that deceive the ordinary people.

In terms of foreign policy, China according to Premier Li continues to promote the Chinese-style “great power” diplomacy, especially as President Xi Jinping had various video conferences with the leaders in G20, the United Nations, BRICS, ASEAN, China-African Cooperation Forum, Asia-European conferences and East Asia. Li has stressed the need for China to construct “the common destiny for the mankind,” to promote global partnership, to actively participate in global governance and reform, to promote anti-Covid-19 vaccine cooperation, and to deal with global problems actively.

Premier Li has been realistic to identify several challenges for China, including the slow recovery of the global economy in which prices of various products are oscillating, the continuation of infectious diseases, the tight energy supplies, the formalism and bureaucratism of local governments, and the gap between the rulers and the masses because of the problematic behavior of a minority of cadres. He criticized some of these cadres for not doing their work adequately, for operating chaotically and for violating the rights of the masses.

(220305) — BEIJING, March 5, 2022 (Xinhua) — The fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) opens at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2022. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao)

Then Li turned to the targets of the Chinese government: 5.5 percent of the national growth rate, the control of unemployment under 5.5 percent, the approximate 3 percent of increase in the consumption expenditure of residents, and the maintenance of sufficient food supply.

In short, his government aims at achieving three objectives: the maintenance of macro-economic lever to control economic conditions, the normalization of the process of controlling infectious diseases, and the emphasis on a stable progress all the time. The key is to retain economic control, social stability and political legitimacy.

The role of the government is to invest more in infrastructure projects, but at the same time requiring local governments at all levels to be frugal and spend cautiously without wastage and without constructing grandiose projects that would lead to the central investigation. The people’s livelihood and their betterment are the emphases.

The government’s functions, moreover, must be reformed by maintaining an environment of marketization and the rule of law, stimulating business investment climate, enhancing digital and smart governance, strengthening intra-governmental supervision, and curbing monopolistic practices in the business sector. Furthermore, internal consumer demands have to be fostered through online platforms while community elderly and kindergarten services must be enhanced. The quality of services delivered at the townships have to be enhanced while counties are forbidden to construct cities and precincts. Clearly, “kingdoms” at the local levels are banned.

(220305) — BEIJING, March 5, 2022 (Xinhua) — Xi Jinping arrives for the opening meeting of the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2022. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)

Agricultural production must be stabilized, including the better management of wheat, beans and oil production, the protection of providing fertilizers and their prices, the reform of farms that are of middle-level and low-level quality, the implementation of soil surveys in the entire country, the need to deploy more agricultural technology, and the supervision of the supply chains of pigs, husbandry, seafood and vegetables. All these measures aim at ensuring stable food supply.

A considerable part of the government report focuses on the details of job creation, including the distribution of unemployment benefits to enterprises that have not laid off their employees, the enhancement of online career services for 10 million high school graduates, the protection of retired soldiers’ residence benefits, the prevention of discrimination against gender and age in employment, the increase in vocational training for the people, and the deployment of 100 billion yuan as unemployment insurance for people who need to undergo further training to be employed.

Public health is to be protected by providing more health subsidies to residents, supervising the safety of medical products, increasing the infectious disease testing ability, reforming public hospitals, supporting the development of Chinese medicine and accelerating the construction of health clinics at national, provincial and precinct levels.

The report also mentions the need for comprehensively implementing the principles of “one country, two systems,” “the Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong,” “the Macau people governing Macau” and “a high degree of autonomy.” The central government’s principles of “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and Macau and of patriots ruling the two places must be “resolutely implemented.” The central government also supports Hong Kong and Macau to develop their economy, improve the people’s livelihood and integrate themselves into national development.

(220305) — BEIJING, March 5, 2022 (Xinhua) — Deputies attend the opening meeting of the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

Regarding Taiwan, the central government insists on the principles of one China, 1992 consensus. the promotion of peaceful development and national reunification between the two straits, opposition to Taiwan separatism, and the opposition to external interference so that the two straits would “construct the glorious enterprise of witnessing the Chinese renaissance.”

Premier Li’s report fully demonstrates that the Chinese party-state remains very strong, effective, determined and strategic in its national developmental policy. The government led by the CPC is forward-looking and comprehensive in its operation, aiming to stabilize the economy amid difficult and uncertain global circumstances, to control the spread of infectious diseases, to control all levels of government with proper supervision and auditing work, to curb wastage at the local governmental level, to foster “dual circulation” of the economy internally and externally, and to project an image of a peaceful China with the adoption of its great-power diplomacy.

Both Hong Kong and Macau must learn from the comprehensive approach adopted by the central government in dealing with their economy, society and polity strategically. At a time when Omicron is spreading fast in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong administration must learn from the strong and effective governance of mainland China. Macau’s governance is better than Hong Kong in its management of Covid-19 and the related variants. Governance, to Beijing, is clearly characterized by a strong capability to anticipate governing problems, to respond to potential crises, to adopt proactive solutions to preempt such crises, and to communicate with the public very effectively – feature that are quite prominent in the mainland government’s 2022 report. Finally, the central government remains deeply committed to making the principles of “one country, two systems” successful in the two places, with Taiwan clearly as the next target in the coming years.