Excellency Mr. Li Yi, Vice President of the Party School/China National Academy of Governance,
Colleagues from international organizations and the UN Country Team,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the United Nations in China, I would like to start by thanking the China National Academy of Governance for co-hosting today’s event, to share key take-aways from the 5th Plenum. We have had the pleasure of working with the Party School since 2018, when we started briefings on China’s key domestic developments. Today’s event is the first in 2020 and aims to continue to enhance mutual understanding between China and the international community in Beijing.
We are aware that this Plenum’s key discussions centered around two sets of new national goals: the 14th Five Year Plan, which will be approved in the forthcoming sessions in March 2021; and the longer term objective for China to achieve socialist modernization by 2035.
A number of my colleagues from the United Nations are here to share their thoughts about China’s development agenda for the coming five and 15 years. Please allow me to take this opportunity to build a foundation for their comments, by setting out some cross-cutting UN views – rooted in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Specifically, I want to draw your attention to the importance of sustainability and inclusiveness.
The relationship between economic growth and sustainable development is an important concept in the 2030 Agenda and is acknowledged in SDG 8. When China’s economic growth suffered a harsh blow due to COVID-19, the government made an enormous effort to restore economic growth. And you have succeeded in returning to positive GDP growth. As you look forward to the 2035 goals, we understand that it will be natural to think in terms of doubling GDP per capita or such similar measurements. However, high quality development is one in which it is the inclusivity and sustainability of growth that matters.
In this respect, we fully support President Xi’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality in China by 2060, and that greenhouse gas emissions will peak no later than 2030. This is no small feat. This is a tremendous commitment to sustainability in China and of vital importance globally, and we offer our full support and experience to you in this effort.
A second point on the importance of sustainability and inclusiveness of economic growth relates to China’s tremendous efforts in the area of poverty alleviation. And great achievements have been made in the last four decades. We are all anticipating the successful completion in 2020 of your campaign to eliminate extreme rural poverty. This is an enormous accomplishment towards attaining SDG 1. And indeed, the progress China makes in this area greatly impacts the progress the world makes. Looking forward, there is still more work to be done to protect the gains of the past and to achieve SDG 1 in its entirety. We need to look at relative poverty, at multidimensional poverty, at urban poverty. And we need to look at setting higher absolute poverty income lines appropriate for China’s level of development.
Inclusiveness of growth, and sustained poverty reduction in the coming years, both hinge on improvements in social protection, in the creation of an effective social safety net for all Chinese people. Just as banking regulators assess the soundness of their banks by conducting stress tests, the COVID pandemic has been a stress test for social protection systems around the world. It has provided a chance to see which groups are hit the hardest by the slowdown and are left behind by gaps in social protection. While many people have returned to normal and secure lives - a major accomplishment by China - there are groups that are left behind. Migrant workers and their families, especially their children, those working in the informal sector, small businesses, farmers, people with disabilities, the elderly: many have not recovered from the shock. Women have been hit especially hard by a combination of income loss, increased burden of household care responsibilities, and vulnerability to violence. We welcome the government’s plans to reform and increase the adequacy of social protection benefits. We suggest that the lessons of COVID be a guide to determine the areas where the most urgent work is needed.
While we are speaking today about China’s plans for its people, I want use this opportunity to highlight that the noble commitment to high quality development must be one that also extends to China’s global presence. And two pressing issues arise from that role which I would like to draw to your attention: first, the need to ensure that China’s commitment to shift more quickly to low carbon development path extends to China’s overseas investments; and second, that China’s position as one of the largest creditors – in many cases the largest bilateral creditor – for developing nations around the world makes China’s active participation in global debt relief efforts an essential condition (together with other COVID-19 support it is already providing) for alleviating the shock that has hit so many low income countries in Africa and elsewhere. In this regard, the UN welcomes China’s support to the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and looks forward to further strengthening our partnership on sustainable and inclusive development cooperation around the world.
I will stop here and hand over to Professor Zhang Zhanbin for the first thematic speech on “Promoting Quality Economic Development” (Professor Zhang is Dean, Professor and Doctoral Superviser of the School of Maxism, Party School (National Academy of Governance)